Sunday, January 29, 2017

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?

Sometimes one sewing machine brings in many requests and still doesn't get sold. One of my latest listings is for a Singer 522, a nifty free arm that is all metal inside:
Singer 522 with extension table removed
The manual dates this model as a 1977 gem and it is a really nice sewing machine, even from this era. Charlie calls and asks to see it but further information shows that he's going to be happy with a sewing machine that is a bit more rugged, a Necchi Nora that has seen better days.
Necchi Nora in treadle (treadle previously sold)
I previously was pretty frightened about the wiring on this Necchi but once I calmed down and really looked at it I got things in order and it was just waiting for a new home. For Charlie, this was great because he needed to sew a sail for a minor repair.

Next up was Jason who actually did take the 522 home. After making dog collars on a newer Brother sewing machine and not being able to sew all of the layers, Jason thought this might be a heavy enough machine and with the free arm it was ideal. A test drive with the fabric and nylon webbing proved it could do the job while stitching forward. On his way out the door he noticed my other sewing machines so I couldn't resist showing him a Singer 15-91 in a beautiful cabinet. That would be his next step if he needed something heavier, Jason mused. Then I get several texts later when Jason couldn't make it reverse stitch when it kept breaking needles. He was a great troubleshooter but we agreed it probably wasn't the right machine for going backwards through 6 layers of material. I suggested several others until I realized he wanted a free arm. Oops. But I did have a Kenmore 158-19412 that might just work.
Kenmore 158-19412
It was great, sewing forwards and backwards, zigzag and straight, with the bonus of a free arm. Before he was going to leave I asked if he wanted to see a Singer 15-91 because I did have one that was not in good cosmetic shape, no base, no cabinet, no accessories but bobbins, and he was game:
Singer 15-91 (cabinet no longer around)
Of course, it was exactly what he was looking for and the deal was made. No Kenmore, no Singer 522, but the mother-of-them-all, a gear to gear Singer 15-91 went home with Jason. What about needing a free arm? Jason did try to get all of the fabric covered webbing under the needle and found there was more free space, even for a flat bed, than with the newer Brothers. It was going to work. This is how I make my customers happy: you get what you are looking for and can even return it if things don't work out. Now Jason has a friend who makes these dog collars, too, and he knows she is also looking for a better sewing machine so I hope to hear from her in the near future.

What happened to the Singer 522? It's back on the local Craigslist, waiting for someone who needs it's free arm but maybe not sewing so many layers. And the Kenmore 158-19421? It got a box of accessories and a carrying case and just got listed. Here's hoping it's not like that doggie in the window whom everyone loves but no one takes home.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Spoonful Of Sugar Makes The Medicine Go Down

This has been a busy season of sales so I'm a pretty happy woman these days. Then there is the problem child, someone who makes an appointment and doesn't show. I thought I had gotten better at figuring these kinds of things out by not responding to emails that didn't have name and phone number, or at least asking them to provide it before I would proceed.Then I got a text where it sounded so sincere that I didn't ask for their name and already had their phone number so all seemed fine, right? Wrong. I got stood up. I sent an email 45 minutes after the appointment but didn't hear anything back until the next day when I got a couple of excuses. They still wanted to come over so we tried again but just like the first time, no text, no apology, no show. You win some, you lose some and I was surprised this didn't bother me too much as it was just inconsiderate. Oh well, there are plenty of other people who would like this nice Pfaff serger at a bargain price.
Pfaff 4760 or 788
But these things have a way of evening themselves out, don't they? I had a last minute call the next night asking about a Singer 404 and Matt lived nearby so came over to hear how sturdy these metal gear slant shank sewing machines were and he was sold. Turns out he needed to sew some light upholstery and his buddies told him an industrial sewing machine wasn't necessary. They were right and Matt went home a happy man.
Singer 404
The next day a Singer 403 was picked up by Anne from Iowa in the middle of the afternoon. She was driving up to the Twin Cites for other reasons and wanted to know if she could buy a Singer 404 for her mom. After many emails back and forth her mom finally decides on the Singer 403, even though her mother already has one, she was sure she needed a back-up. We are both willing to indulge her mom, knowing this was important to her. Besides, her mom is 89. Yup, still sewing. I hope that is me when I'm her age.

Singer 403
After I get home I get ready for two appointments: a Bernina 1001 was first up before supper when two young women come over from a far western town so it was an hour drive in our foggy weather. Our purchaser was encouraged by her girlfriend who said she needed a Bernina, nothing else would do. They both loved the 1001 as it was not only a great sewing machine but an even newer model than the girlfriend had so there was a bit of new-model envy. Berninas sell themselves so it wasn't a problem and they happily drove off in the fog.
Bernina 1001
Next up was a last minute appointment for a Kenmore 148-1560, a lovely sewing machine that was packed with goodies and all metal inside. It had a nice array of stitches and moved through its paces with ease. She wanted this particular sewing machine because her mother had a Kenmore so the learning curve would be less. Of course, and this machine even had a purchased manual, something I rarely do. Sometimes Kenmore puts several of their models together in a manual and this time I thought it was just too confusing, especially if a beginner bought the sewing machine. I'm glad I did because the buyer was a beginner. Isn't it nice how that works out?
Kenmore 148-1560
And finally, I get a text from Gary who wants to see the Pfaff serger. Oh, you bet, as I now want this one gone after setting it up several times with no sale. Gary comes over Sunday afternoon and not only wants to buy it, he's never used one before so needs a lesson, too. He's a quick learner and asked good questions so I'm pretty confident he'll be fine on his own. Why is he buying a serger? He's been helping his daughters learn to sew and discovered the overlocking stitches on their Janome sewing machine took way too long. He knew a serger was the answer and he sure got a good one. Gary had used sewing machines before though: he's a firefighter and they need to repair things so he had used their industrial sewing machine for seat covers. I'm so glad this good serger went to a guy who is helping his teenage daughters learn to sew.
and in its final appearance, the Pfaff 4760
There is no moral to this adventure this week but just maybe when things are looking a bit down, you get blessed in a way you hadn't expected. Plus, each one of these machines, with the exception of the Singer 403, were handled via text messaging. Looking back at the messages I see I didn't have names for each of the buyers either. Guess I just throw caution to the wind sometimes but, hey, let's be safe out there. Bring a friend with you when you answer Craigslist ads and I'm sure none of my readers would ever stand someone up. Ever.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


It's no surprise to most of you who like vintage items, especially sewing machines, that I like to restore other items as well. One of my favorite haunts is Goodwill Outlet and I've got a few projects to share with you in this post.

Tote bags, tote bags, tote bags: can you ever have too many? Apparently not, because I keep picking them up. After finding a great Vera Bradley bag in a black print that I'm using on a daily basis for all kinds of items to tote back and forth to work, I found another one in pink that I figured I could use come spring. What I didn't notice until I washed it was a large ink stain in a bottom corner. I could get it mostly scrubbed out but there was just a residual stain plus the handles were pretty worn. Could I find coordinating fabric? Look no further than the bottom insert of the bag that had matching fabric I could use to patch in on the bottom and again as a type of reupholstery on the handles. Voila! New life for a worn old tote:
Patched over on this bottom corner and handle with a slipcover over worn section
Looking like a tote bag should!
Feeling successful, I picked up an abandoned quilted jacket project. All of the hard work was done with so much piecing and various techniques on display but the final construction languished. It came home with me to be made into...another tote bag? refashioned jacket? It was an extra large so I thought I could get a new jacket out of it and went in that direction:
Back of jacket as I got it: side seams open

Original front: diagonal pieces were not fully sewn on one side
Using a pattern I had experience with, I placed my pattern pieces over the back and front sections: perfect. The sleeves on the original jacket were short and wide since they were drop shoulder but I had fabric left from the other sections to add about 4 inches on the bottom (glad my arms aren't too long).  I only had to sew shoulder seams, set-in sleeves, side seams from sleeve edge to bottom edge of jacket, and it was ready to try on.  It fit but something was missing or off so I folded down the top front edges to make a v-neck and that helped. Lining it would also help and make it more finished:
Needs lining but otherwise cut down and re-sewn
 My husband wonders where I can wear something like this so now I have my doubts but think I will finish it anyway and take my chances. And finally, another tote bag via Goodwill Outlet:
Straps sewn on with a surprise inside
This was one big bag out of a quilted fabric that has the coordinating fabric on the other side so it was easy to sew on the straps and box out the bottom. Guess what I put inside? A sewing machine, of course. It's holding a Free Westinghouse in a custom base:
Free Westinghouse rotary in custom made wood base
Now it's easier to move this heavy baby and she won't get dusty. So that's my big ideas from Goodwill Outlet unfinished or discarded projects. Yea, I have those, too, but once in awhile it's nice to rescue one, or three, for yourself.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Cover Up

I love having sewing machines on display although I really don't have room for any type of display shelves. I make do with having a few on top of the cabinets that are for sale or on the breakfront that is near the front door. The Singer 99 hand crank seems to be permanently on display and it does get a lot of compliments but she's getting dusty sitting out all exposed. At the River Rats TOGA last September I noticed one woman's solution: a cover that was backed with fusible fleece to give it body so it would nearly stand up by itself. Here's the best part: her fabric was printed with the words "Singer" in their own font. Oh, I had to have some of that fabric! It's not cheap but I figured I would make one to see if I could sell others and last weekend was my opportunity.
Black background with gold Singer motif, very elegant.

 I measured my machine for length and width, cutting out the fusible fleece first as my base pattern. Then the Singer fabric was laid out, fusible fleece on top, cutting out with 3/4" seam allowance:

Base pattern of 19" by 26.5", adding seam allowance to Singer fabric

I made up a pattern piece for the side panel and repeated the process, cutting out two of each:
Size before adjustment of 1" off the bottom edge
My fusible fleece was not too happy about fusing onto the back of the fabric so I went ahead and sewed through the fleece and outer fabric along lines that basically underlined the words "Singer" to keep it all together. With my fabric sandwiches, I fitted the end cap piece and basted in place:
End cap fabric was too large, creating bulges
It looked terrible! There was way too much end cap fabric so I snipped out most of the basting threads and pinned it in place from the outside while sitting on top of the machine. This was more like using a dress form but this time I got it right. I checked the final version against my pattern and found out I needed to make that end cap about an inch shorter. Now I could serge the seams for a more finished look:
Seams were sewn and then serged as a seam finish. Note quilting lines.
I cut out lining that was fabric from a shower curtain where I had used the outer fabric but not the gold colored lining. Ta da:
Lining serged together, ready for sewing onto the outer shell
Measured to cut and formed around the finished quilted shell, I also serged these seams. With right sides together, the bottom seam was sewn with about eight inches left open for turning. Once turned so the right sides were now showing, it was pressed and top stitched around the bottom for a finished look and to enclose where it had been open for turning around:
And she lifts her skirt to show off the lining!
Here it is, on top of the Singer 66 Red Eye treadle cabinet where she currently resides:
I'll need to find a different placemat to set the Singer 99 handcrank on now that it has such a beautiful cover, but it does need something to sit on so it doesn't make marks on the wood top from movement. I wouldn't want to put felt on the bottom of the wooden base as it would then be slippery, a no-no when sewing. I like the placemat solution so that will be my next project. Maybe I could make one that is more interesting than just a black rectangle of fabric...suggestions? Would this be my entrance to free motion quilting? It just might be but for now I'm very happy with my Singer fabric cover for my Singer 99 hand crank:

Oh so sweet, my Singer 99 hand crank

Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Lotus Blossoms

As I have written about in a previous post, Hey Stella!, I love those little 3/4 sized sewing machines and have fallen hard for the Elna version. Stella comes with me from time to time, even visiting my workplace when I was making Dobby for a Harry Potter display. You can imagine how fast I jumped when I found out someone was selling, not one, but two, Elna Lotus model sewing machines. Sure, there were problems, but I thought they were all just challenges that beckoned to me. We struck a deal and they were coming UPS, faster than I could have imagined:
Lotus model 25 in front, model 35 in back
They were in terrific shape but traveled in subzero weather so I had to restrain myself to wait until they warmed up. The biggest disappointment was the top flap that conceals the accessories had broken through its plastic fittings so it no longer would hold in place. Bummer. But all else was great with the exception of the bobbin winders but they are on back order at Ray White's Sewing Center so I'll have to be patient or include a bobbin "Side Winder" with the sale.
Model 25 open with the bag holding foot control and cords
They were different models: a model 25 with basic straight and zigzag stitches and a model 35 that has an elastic zigzag and a modified blind stitch:
Model 35 with stitch selection dial
Of course, the more basic model, with the name lotus on the front had that broken top. I made up linen bags out of a vintage piece of fabric for the foot control and cords so they didn't scratch the bed of each machine and could also contain extra bobbins and a few other accessories.
Linen bags (confession: made up on a Bernina serger)
 The Lotus and Stella do not come with many extra feet so they are pretty slim and trim.
Lotus 35 accessory tray, only missing an oiler
 I hope I don't have to point out why they are called lotus but just notice the flaps when they open. Yup, like a flower blooming, the Lotus was the first model Elna made with the Stella coming later. I like how the Lotus has you place it in a parking mode when you are done:
Dot matches up to the 0 for locking in place
and then move the handwheel towards you and it locks in place. This actually disengages  the friction wheel so it does not get a flat spot on it, a major cause of rough running and uneven wear. Stella didn't have that but then there were other upgrades so I'm not complaining. So how did I fix the top from falling off? I have to pat myself on the back on this one: I used a thin piece of plastic coated wire, like a twist tie, and ran it over the end of the rod and then through the nearby screw hole, twisting it together underneath. Once the screw was in place it was held down and now could open and close without falling off. Voila!
Twist tie as a flexible fitting
They are just so sweet and I can't wait to call Kristie who showed an interest in my Stella. But she's "my Stella" and I'm hoping she will be interested in a cute Lotus for herself.

Here's an update on the Brother Select-O-Matic that traveled from St. Paul to South Dakota from my last post Letting Go. She's home!
Brother Select-O-Matic in a place of honor
I got these lovely photos from Linda who promises she's going to retrofit the treadle cabinet to fit the Brother (remember, she's a big gal and needs a cabinet). There's even a photos of their home, the same one where Grandma was born in 1899 and used her Brother Select-O-Matic (or one very similar):
Snowy South Dakota in January 2017
Now doesn't that just feel good to know where this little lovely ended up? She does look petite even if we can barely lift her and her two tone coloring is very appealing. I think all her nicks and dings on the bed of this model are just fitting since both this one and probably Grandma's were very well used. Linda plans on doing the same having already mended jeans on them (she doesn't waste any time). But look at this photo, above the sewing machine to see who is looking down on it:
Grandmother and the Brother

Congratulations to Linda (and Dale) for making this story have such a happy ending!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Letting Go

It can be hard to let our children grow up and take flight. I've always felt it was my job as a parent to prepare my children to leave, to grow up knowing how to take care of themselves and have an inkling of who they are or could become. That made it a tad easier when the time came to leave the nest because this was my goal and it was a success! But there are still moments that tug at our hearts.

The same can be said of some of our sewing machines. I know, I know, they are machines, not people, they don't have emotions, but I do think they have personalities. How we have acquired them, the time we spent fixing, coaxing, reading about, and sharing with other enthusiasts, have given them some degree of value in our lives. I remember my first Viking, now with my friend Ann, my second Viking, model 1100 that is currently not being used since I have a Viking 1200 now in its place. An early acquisition was a Brother Select-o-Matic, a hidden gem of a sewing machine that I quickly grew to love. Her biggest downfall was her full-metal body and innards: she was hefty! This kept me from using her since I had to hoist her up onto a closed cabinet and then it was too high for comfortable use but I still continued to drag her out and use her from time to time. It was love as only a mother could love because she was pretty beat up with nicks and chips from some pretty hard use but I said I didn't care.
Brother Select-o-Matic (my first)
Until a golden opportunity arose when one appeared on our local Craigslist: she was mine! Not only was she a Brother Select-O-Matic, she was in pink and teal plus was in perfect shape. She came home with me and is now installed in a cabinet for easy use.
Brother Select-o-Matic in cabinet
This model works no better, no worse, than my first one but she is much prettier. I almost hate to admit that as it sounds so superficial but it's true. It took several months before I had to admit I didn't need two and it was time for it to find another home. Fortunately, there were more calls than I had machines for but the first contact was from Linda. Linda lives in South Dakota, not real far away but not exactly in my neighborhood either. I think we both laughed it off a bit but Linda was serious and I knew this was too heavy to ship. But Linda is inventive.

If I could connect with her brother-in-law who makes frequent trips to the Twin Cites, she would send me a check and we would get this scheduled. Thursday was the day when my Brother meets Linda's brother and takes that long trip to South Dakota, outside of Sioux Falls.
Brother in case has to wait it out in my car all day
Through a series of emails and texts we finally met up; Linda said it wouldn't be hard to find Dale's truck and she was right:
Dale in his truck, ready to roll
As I thanked him for his very big part in this adventure, he said he was more than glad to help because Linda has done him a few favors from time to time, too. Just looking at the outside of the case he thought it looked familiar, just like the one Mom used, maybe even Grandma. Since it's from 1954 that's very possible. I was glad to have it go to such a good home but there was a bit of a lump in my throat as we drove off and I even have tears in my eyes as I write this. Sometimes those vintage sewing machines just find a place in our hearts. So Linda, from my heart ot yours, you know have a Brother like no other.
My Brother on left, Linda's on the right.

See the next post for the Brother Select-O-Matic in its new home!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Penny For Your Thoughts

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time you might have noticed there are ads on Sewing Machine Mavin's blog now. Thank you for reading my blog as I ramble on about vintage sewing machines and sewing on them. In my adventures at work I found a course on Google Analytics and as part of that course I was made aware of AdSense, a Google product where they manage ads on your web page and you make money. That seemed simple enough. After more searching about AdSense I found out not everyone who applies gets in, there are some specific things you need in place before you even apply, so now was the time to get all of my ducks in a row. I took to heart 12 Things to do Before Applying for AdSense so I added an "about" page, a policy page, and cleaned things up a bit. I even tried out new templates only to discard them. You are now seeing one that I'm trying out but don't expect it to stay. Then I applied to AdSense and waited for a few days. I got accepted! First try! That might not be unusual but not everyone gets in so I'm busy patting myself on the back.

Here's where the truth comes in: you make money but it's measured in pennies. As I understand it, from my blog post for every click on an ad I get a small kickback. Small, very small. I do get hundreds of visits every day so I think this is only going to grow so I check in every once in awhile to see what my earnings might be and wonder when they will cut me a check. Well...I need to reach $100 before they pay back. This could take years! I'm not going to get rick quickly but I hope the ads are interesting and relevant, add to my blog, and don't irritate you, my faithful readers, too much.

I read an article recently through the Treadleon Yahoo group about trying to put a Singer treadle in a museum or library collection at Harvard. This was a fascinating article for those of us with treadle sewing machines because it was an excellent model in very good condition that any one of us would like to have.

Apparently, Harvard had a difficult time finding anyone to put this Singer 27 with sphinx decals in their collection and it ended up in the office of a librarian. Of course. This librarian, a.k.a. Sewing Machine Mavin, has been known to bring a sewing machine to work but to have one in your office, to even have space for one in your office, would be a little bit of heaven while on the job. Sigh.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A New Home for a New Home

This is my tale of a sewing machine that I feared I would never fix and it would have to go into the parts category. It had such good "bones" in its variety of stitches, excellent condition, and neat storage for accessories.
New Home XL-II with extension table
What was the problem? A plastic gear in the hook assembly had cracked so it ceased to run. The owner was nearly giving it away since it was broken and said if I could fix it she would like to buy it back. Now I have to confess that was almost two years ago and I do not have the contact information anymore. I replaced the broken gear but could not get it to "stay" as it kept sliding back. Had I missed something? How could I get it to hold in place? I broke down and bought a service manual a year ago and checked to see if it could solve the problem for me and it seemed so but I made a very big mistake in not downloading it. Yup, it would only be available for two weeks and then it would be gone unless I downloaded it to my computer. And I didn't. Cheap and stubborn as I am, I was very reluctant to purchase it again so it waited many months until I couldn't stand it any longer and went back to the site again but this time I downloaded it and printed it off right away.

The manual was quite good and I could see by their diagrams and explanations that I wasn't missing any parts, all but one of the settings were correct, but it kept sliding back. Then I did something that moved it all into place. Voila! Now the machine would run, pick thread up from the hook, but the thread would get stuck. I check it over and over again but there didn't seems to be anything wrong. I applied the principle of WATT (walk away to think) several times and finally I took another long look at the whole mechanism to find the hook seemed to have a gap and that's why it was catching. Could I move it back? Sure enough, there were two tiny screws that would loosen and reposition it to close that gap. It took a few more trials and adjustments but it finally worked. It not only worked but it sounded better, too. Hallelujah, she was sewing again! I needed to use the instruction manual to figure out the stitch width lever and the automatic buttonhole maker, but it was sewing very nicely.
25 stitches plus buttonholes
Dial up one of the stitches
Sharon called up and was ready to try it out but icy roads were predicted in the afternoon so maybe she could come early in the morning? She arrived with her husband and a piece of double sided fleece. She admitted her white plastic Brother was not meant to sew two layers of fleece but just do minor repairs. Sure enough,  the New Home XL-II handled it with ease once the stitch length was at the max. She loved it, especially how the accessories were stored in the top compartment.
Accessories under top lid
Even the carrying case had a lift off lid that would hold even more supplies so all of your sewing would be in one place.

Hard plastic carry case
Top with handle
Top removed with sewing supplies storage

That would be "one place" if you didn't have a room-full of fabric, sewing machines, and all the items they require:
Earlier in 2016, just the side with the sewing machines

Might your life be so simple.