Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Moral Support

My posts have been a little sparse as of late and will continue to be because I'm not at home where I can indulge my sewing machine addiction unabated, or at least it seems that way. I have been in Florida where the sun shines and the evenings are mild but this isn't a vacation. You see, I've come to assist a sister and brother-in-law care for our mother since she has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For those who have walked down this same path, you know how hard this can be and we are no exception. She was diagnosed two weeks ago and I have been here a week so I did get to see her while she was talking and still a little bit feisty but just as quickly she is now unable to eat and does not get out of bed. Our hearts are breaking but she has been quite up-front and realistic from the beginning so we have hospice care to help her and us, her caretakers.

My mom has been my biggest fan of my sewing machine adventure blog, always reading each post (especially when I could put her on an alert list so she would get an email when a new edition was posted) and sending an email back with her praise. Now, she has said she didn't always understand what I was referring to, but that was okay since my writing sounded just like I was speaking. She said she felt closer to me when she read my blog and what I was up to. That always felt good since I didn't spend enough time on the phone with her but she didn't really complain, just told me how much she liked to hear the sound of my voice. Isn't it like that with people we love: we just want to hear their voice!
Alison, Emma, Mom, Karen summer 2015
When I became an adult and got the chance to view my life from a broader perspective, I went back to my parents and thanked them for three things.

  1. My curly hair: this has made my life easier with a quick wash and blow dry.
  2. Letting me go to college: my sister Sue was the trail-blazer but they didn't put up much fuss and I knew they could have.
  3. Encouraging me in my sewing: fabric was bought, items cut but never finished as I tried new skills and wasn't too successful, clothing worn that didn't flatter but I had made it myself, and even helping me learn some new skills like putting in a placket for a sleeve cuff. 
They kind of laughed it off and siad they really didn't do that much but those were things I wanted them to know before I wouldn't have a chance to tell them. That was almost forty years ago and my dad has been gone since 1985 but I'm still learning things from my mom.

She left a job of eighteen years when a friend asked her to come work at a better company. It took courage to leave the comfort of her job as a secretary in a retail store (remember Wieboldt's?) and venture farther from home and into the unknown and she said it was my encouragement that got her out the door. Only a few years later she left that job for a better position and this was where she stayed until she retired. Again, it wasn't easy but she made new friends and enjoyed learning new skills. In retirement she decided to move to Florida because her arthritis was so much better in the warmth of the south. We were a little unsure of such a big move far away but we have all visited her, some every year, and she has always been a wonderful hostess. 

In her youth, my mom was a bit of a beauty queen as her town "Miss" going onto the county contest but from there we aren't too sure and we know she was never Miss Iowa. She was always a beauty in our dad's eyes and we could see the admiration he had for her. In her widowed years she continued to be a beauty and has had a few boyfriends in Florida and we can't help but chuckle at our beauty queen mother. 

And now we have the privilege to help her in this new adventure of leaving the familiar behind and to go on alone. She's been quite a lady, one we will miss, and my biggest cheerleader. We miss you, Mom.

Kelly, Mom, and Karen

Friday, February 17, 2017

Oh, Brother!

My adventure with the Brother Select-O-Matic is not over...yet. I love this model of vintage sewing machine and that is what you will find when it is on your radar so another one came up on my local Craigslist. I made a beeline to it.
Brother Select-O-Matic in teal (again)

Although it wasn't the cool two-tone pink and teal, it was in great working condition until I arrived. Henry bemoaned how it was breaking thread so we both looked it over and he thought it might be the needle opening on the needle plate. With a bit of emery cloth he smoothed out the roughness and it stitched just fine, no broken threads.
Needleplate in rough condition

As happy as I was to get this great sewing machine, I was even happier to hear about Henry and his own sewing machine adventure. Henry had a Singer 31-15.
Singer 31-15 
I have heard about these industrial type sewing machines but had never seen one so I happily tagged along behind him to see this treasure. Just to prove you do not need a large room to have a sewing space, Henry kept 2 treadles at the bottom of the stairs in what would be considered wasted space, just for turning around in or to place a decorative pot or something equally useless. His Singer 31 was a gem, with the presser foot lift lever, too. I also did not know about this, but it's an added on feature where there is a lever at the back of the machine head that is tethered to a knee lever by a leather belt just like the treadle belts:
Knee lever for presser foot lift (look above the letter R)

You can move your knee to the right and it will lift the presser foot while your hands are engaged with the fabric. This is a feature on some Berninas from the 830 Records on but to find this on an antique Singer? Yes, my eyes were wide and I was excited.
Industrial treadle base

And this unique set up continued as Henry showed me his Pfaff 130 treadle.
Pfaff 130 in treadle base: pristine!
It was in pristine condition  and even had the "coffee grinder"  or Automatic 50010 attachment for 54 decorative stitches on the backside of the head. He had rigged up a table top with an old bamboo shade, gluing it in place and added a healthy coat of something durable over the top. There was a hinged back and side section for extra space to support your work present on both treadles, another feature I had not seen before. Wow, oh wow, I was very impressed.
Pfaff 130 with decorative stitch mechanism on back
Henry walked the box with the Brother sewing machine inside to my vehicle and we continued to talk about our mutual interest in sewing machines when I remembered to give him one of my business cards. You never know where any single contact might lead you and Henry and his sewing machines were a real find. By the way, Henry's wife told me he also sews on them and even made all of their window coverings. Way to go, Henry.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Double Your Trouble

There are some makes of Sewing machines that are always good: Bernina, Singer (before 1968), Kenmore (before 1980), and others. Then there are some I'm a bit skittish about: Viking, Pfaff, and Elna to name a few. Why? You never know what you are going to find: broken gears, cleated belts, and other things I'm reluctant to work with. If I have a good model in hand I can give it my best and that's what's happening with the Pfaff model I recently acquired.
Pfaff 297 sewing machine
It was Goodwill Auction again where I got the Pfaff 297 with free local pick-up. It came pretty dirty but all of that cleaned up and it ran pretty good except for a familiar thumping. I've heard that before but couldn't quite place it. Taking the top off and peering inside I could see the beautiful cleated belt that was intact. The cam shifter and gears are plastic but they didn't have any cracks in them either. So what was the thumping noise all about? Take a look:
Pfaff 297 looking down on the cream colored cam gears, motor on the right.

The motor is upright along the right side of the sewing machine and there on the top of the motor is a friction wheel. This is a rubber wheel that is usually seen outside of the casing of a sewing machine. It rests on the end of the moor and makes contact with the handwheel to engage the rest of the machine. So what was this friction wheel doing inside? Same thing, only under cover.
See that black cone shaped disk? It's the friction wheel.

This one had a flat side from sitting too long in the same place, a common occurrence. I checked to see if I could buy a new one but this wasn't going to be easy so I took the next best step: I filed the existing one with some emery cloth into a new smooth surfaced wheel.  It sounded much better, not quite like the loping horse, but I could still hear it. Maybe I could just hear the typical sound a friction wheel makes instead of the smoother sound of a belt driven sewing machine.

As per other Pfaff models of this era, it comes with a nice case that can be a tricky to open but once you know the trick it's easy:
Pfaff cover with lock that swings out to disengage
There are top compartments that open to store thread and bobbins on one side and attachments on the other:
Pfaff cover opens to reveal more storage for bobbins and presser feet.
Unfortunately, this model was before the IDT, the Pfaff walking foot system, but it's still a good sewing machine that stitches a standard variety of stitches. It's easy to use, performs well, and won't cost an arm and a leg. That's part of the reason why I like this vintage sewing machine hobby-turned-business: you can enjoy a quality sewing machine without paying the quality price! Well there are many reasons to love these old babes and cost is only one factor. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

It's In The Mail

Sometimes it takes a long time before something comes to the attention of those who need it. Take for example the Kenmore 158-1030-1040-1050 sewing machine in its adorable rose embossed case:

Kenmore 158-1030 portable case
This is one of the nicest 3/4 sized sewing machines because it's more than small: it really sews quite well! Due to the run of these machines almost 50 years ago, parts do break and are hard to replace so donor machines are always sought after. But it's those odd parts that NO ONE has that are frustrating, such as the front compartment storage boxes. If they break you are just out of luck and it makes using the machine awkward.
Without the front box it's a little strange looking
Then I got smart and had a customer become my supplier of these boxes when he mentioned he had a 3D printer. That was my lucky day and he made up six for me and I advertised them on a few of the sewing machine Facebook pages. No action.

It's been about two years now and two women came together to find me and order this little box:
Storage box made from a 3D printer!
Both were excited to find one so I sent them off immediately. I heard right back from one who was very happy with hers yet the second one lingered. After four days I asked if she got it and she said yes but she was a little disappointed: it didn't snap shut. Well, yeah, it didn't but I guess I was so happy to get a replacement that didn't even occur to me. Now that I think about it, though, the original boxes didn't snap either! She wanted to paint hers and I guess that's a possibility but I didn't think it would be wise since all of the pulling in and out would scrape the paint off. One for two isn't too bad, though and I still have several in my supply.
Kenmore 158-1040 with box in place and extra on the side
Another item came in the mail that I am very, very happy with: a Viking Husqvarna 1100 sewing machine. I bid on it through Goodwill Auction and was shocked that my bid was the highest. You have to be patient because my experience shows once it's yours they are in no hurry to ship: it was two weeks until I got the shipping notice. It then came in only three days and was well wrapped, looking really good. It came with a power cord but no foot control but I already had a Viking 1100 with the FR-4 type foot control to test it out. I got it all set up but it didn't turn on. Hum. The handwheel turned fairly easily so I turned it over to check things out. That wasn't the smartest thing to do because I unwittingly took out the screws that held the motor and getting everything back together and working as it should took about six more tries. What was the problem? I plugged it into the extension cord that wasn't plugged in. I could have avoided all of that work!
Viking Husqvarna 1100

As I suspected, in the photos they didn't show the accessory boxes with all of the goodies:
Model 1100 with slide on storage boxes open
It was fully loaded, only needing snap on foot B, something I can easily get if I don't have it already have one. The case was pretty dirty but with a bit of elbow grease it cleaned right up. I will have to come up with a new foot control plus the cord that is sold separately: foot control and cord could be $120. Yikes! I will be patient and wait for a bargain. Yes, waiting patiently either for the market to come to you, as with the Kenmore storage boxes, or for a foot control to come on the market at a bargain price, patience is the key.  Patience is a virtue, I hear, but I don't always want to practice it!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Ingenuity: the quality of being clever, original, and inventive. That describes the table I'm going to talk about in this post. Previously, I wrote about an Elna Julilee in Taking Into Account, but I didn't show the table:
Table for the Elna Jubilee
It appears to be a common banquet table top that has been modified to fit a drop in sewing machine like the Elna but the measurements are standard for thousands of vintage sewing machines with pins for mounting at 9.5" apart:
Standard opening and pin spacing
It has legs that are not original but mounted with sturdy screws along the skirt that is also an addition for this type of table. It is not only sturdy, it is huge! I took measurements and labeled a couple photos, sending them off to a quilt group leader to share:

All I could think of was when you are quilting these large projects they need to be supported so putting your machine on a large table works nice. For most of us that puts the machine too high and is ergonomically wrong, causing pain in your back and shoulders. But if the sewing machine were mounted into the table, you have the correct height and all of that table space for a win-win situation.

The Elna is a unique sewing machine with free-arm and flat surface mount due to the "mounting bed" (my term, not theirs) that allows the machine to be pulled up for free arm and released to go back down to flat bed:
Elna Jubilee as flat bed

Elna Jubilee up as a free arm
So how does this actually work? There is a button on the bed just to the right of the reverse lever:
Reverse lever and release button
Now you can pull up and to the right using the built in handle on the Elna Jubilee. This little button lines up with a lever as shown below:
Black lever for spring release inside the base
Pretty clever, huh? When the machine is bolted into the table this works like magic and is quite handy. Several of the Elnas have this type of mounting bed system, not just the Jubliee. Other machines have an extension table that surrounds the free arm but it's a pain to put on and off and creates an abnormally high work surface. Can we spell b-a-c-k p-a-i-n? The Elna system is really great for all of the above reasons.

I'll add one more photo of a little trick for getting a sewing machine into those pins. They always seem to be falling down while you are trying to place the machine holes on the table pins so now I use a rubber band to keep them both up and together:
Rubber band stretched between pins to hold them up
I know, it's not rocket science, but it's pretty clever and something I picked up along the way. It's not my invention, just something I wanted to share with my faithful readers with these vintage sewing machines. Here's to fewer pinched fingers!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Trading Up

I love having long term relationships with my sewing machine buddies. Patty and I met when she was willing to come down to the Twin Cities from up near Duluth for a Singer 201-2 in a bentwood case as I wrote about in Among Friends. When I traded a Singer 101 for two Singer 201-2's, I knew the Centennial of the two was going to Patty. She previously told me she already had a Singer 201 Centennial but it wasn't in the best of shape and she was still looking for a better one and now I could help her out. It was very cold in the Home Depot parking lot when we traded sewing machines, not like my cozy kitchen in our last visit, but she was picking up ordered items then wanted to stop in to visit her sister before heading back north and this was going to be the quickest way. Both of us were happy when she got a better looking machine and I can easily sell her Singer 201-2:
Singer 201-2 Centennial (I know, it looks great!)

Patty has given me some good advice in the past and now she had another little tidbit that I'm going to follow up on. The bentwood cases have keys but it's hard to know where to put that key so it's handy and easy to use. I usually put it on a length of ribbon and hang it from the handle but that's not the greatest of ideas so Patty put hers on a type of key-chain holder that would easily snap off. Now I'm going shopping to see what I can find, possibly a key holder that has a retractable cord? I'll keep you posted.

After Patty and I parted I drove directly to Cabela's. No, I'm not hunting or fishing, but I did hunt down a Singer 15-91 and met a man at Cabela's to pick up this gem:
Singer 15-91 as it appeared in the ads
Yes, it was pretty dirty and with no cords but I didn't have one in my inventory but had someone interested in one so this seemed like a good deal. When I got it home I immediately looked at the cords and noted the foot control cord that was snipped off. In fact, the whole three prong receptacle was hanging off the side so I removed the snipped cord, screwed it all back into place and plugged it in with a cord set that was an "extra". Nothing. The light didn't turn on but I tried the foot control and the motor hummed but didn't want to move. That's okay, it was getting the power! So now the clean up process began. First I took the light off the back of the machine and put a new bulb in. After cleaning up the back of the machine I screwed the light back on, after testing to make sure it was just a dead bulb, and now we had light. I used TR3 Resin Glaze and Polish to carefully clean off the dirt, being careful around the decals but this machine had no compromise of the clear coat finish and cleaned up very nicely. When I got to the bobbin case I could see the thread jammed in there thinking this must be why the motor couldn't turn over. Sure enough, when it was all cleaned out and tested, she hopped right to it. Success! Just some more cleaning and checking on oil and grease conditions (it was pretty clean inside and grease wasn't even black) I oiled it with Triflow and cleaned old grease out and added petroleum jelly. That's right, good old Vasoline, as per Bill Holman and others who tell us not to use Triflow grease in a potted motor. I learned this the hard way when I regreased a potted motor and then found it running too slow. Bill says you need a light grease like Vasoline so that's what I use on a potted motor now. Everything back together, some tweaking of the wiring and cords and it's ready to stitch. She did a good job after some adjustments on the bobbin tension. Just look at her now:
Singer 15-91 after cleaning
She's dated as being labeled on September 23, 1952. Let's see, I would have been only two months old at the time so Mom, if you are reading this, try to remember back when you had your baby Karen plus two other little girls while living on a farm in Iowa. Was there canning to do at that time of year or was harvest in full swing or was Jane finally in school half days? I'm pretty sure you didn't have time for sewing, even if you had this fine machine at the time. It's fun to look back to remember what life was like and how it has changed, some for the good, some not so good. Yet change is right around the corner, isn't it?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Taking Into Account

It's just business, I keep telling myself, but I really hate to keep my business record books. I'm the one who keeps track of things at home and, of course, for my business, too. It seems I have a bit of a quirk when it comes to keeping up with these accounts: when money is tight I'm right on it but when money is flush I'm way too lax. Take tax time as one example: I have until February 6 to pay sales tax on all I have sold. I have known this for months but I wait until almost the last possible minute by paying this tax on the first day of February. Why? I have kept all of my receipts but have stopped entering them on a spreadsheet months and months ago. Augh! Now I have the deadline looming for Federal taxes and I will have to present all of my bookkeeping to our tax person (who is an awesome lady) and I'm dragging my heels. I do put some of the blame on losing my Microsoft Office programs when I got a new-to-me laptop and refused to pay for new software. A friend thought I might like Open Office since it's free and has a good following. It's not bad but I have to learn all of the idiosyncrasies as it seems to be a combination of Google Drive and MS Office. We'll see how long it lasts before I break down and purchase MS Office. But you are not reading this blog to hear about keeping accounts.

There is a fun story about a Bernina adventure I had last week. Out of the blue I get a call from Mary who reminded me that she sold her Bernina 1001 serger to me last year. My heart sank just a bit thinking she wanted it back but that hasn't happened yet so I'm not sure why my heart went in that direction. She talked about how she was continuing to get rid of things she was no longer using so would I be interested in her Bernina 730 Record? Was I ever! She named a price I could afford and I beat it over to her house the next day.  Here is her lovely Bernina 730 Record:
Bernina Record 730
She is pristine with original manual, cute storage drawer compartment that is full of original feet. She did bemoan not being able to find the keys to the suitcase it comes in but I found them with other attachments in one of the drawers.
Storage that fits onto the back of the machine (check out all of those feet!)
Of course, even though she hadn't used it in some time it ran beautifully, only needed lint removal and a drop of oil in each of the spots marked in red. As an added bonus it came with a walking foot!
This foot was made for walkin'
A friend had borrowed the 730 and bought the walking foot but Mary didn't know if it even worked but I know it does and was glad to get it. Now, Mary knows I buy and sell sewing machines and sergers so she is under no illusion that I'm going to keep this one for myself yet she wanted me to have it. To sell. I'm okay with that and will find a good home for it.

Now we get to the story of an Elna Jubilee. I met MarySue from St. Louis when she read in my blog about an Elna and was looking for one. Through a series of events, she did come up to the Twin Cities and bought a lovely Elna SU68 but confessed she really had her heart on an Elna Jubilee. The difference is the cams for decorative stitches or having everything built in: the Jubilee has no cams, just built in stitch variety. I had never seen this model until yesterday when one came up on my local Craigslist in a table. I responded within an hour of the ad and picked it up on my way home. Mary Sue, if you are reading this and still would like this model, she's yours (in trade for the SU68):
Elna Jubilee
Don't have a photo of the table since it's still in my car but it's pretty neat, too, with a large work space. Patience is the key while we wait for our favorite sewing machine to appear locally and at a good price. So that leads me to the Pfaff 297 I just got but, wait, I'm out of time and that will have to be the next story.

In the meantime, keep sewing, keep reading, and keep an active mind so you will age gracefully. Yup, that's one of my goals.