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.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Annual Outing

This was the weekend of the Textile Center Garage Sale and if you have been reading my blog for any length of time you know this is one of the highlights of my sewing year. I volunteered on Thursday  and this year I signed up to help sort books. Since I'm a librarian I figured I could handle the job but when I got there it seemed most of the work was already done. There were far more books than any other year, covering about 40 feet in length and five shelves tall. Once the last of the boxes of books were opened we went on to boxes of booklet types, the kind where in several pages they show you how to applique cats onto sweatshirts and other gems. Someone had donated boxes and boxes of plastic sleeves that held their collection of patterns gleaned from various magazines. They were in good shape, organized, and had been stored in three ring binders but there were hundreds of them. The woman who was sorting them with me said she was going home to look at her collection of patterns and try to assess how many she could realistically use over the next years and then dump the rest. I heartily agreed because I don't want my children to have to wade through all of my "collection" like we had just done.

Saturday dawned bright, clear, and warm so my daughter Kelly and I got ourselves together for this annual feast of fabric, yarn, and so much more. I'm not sure if it was sorting through all of those plastic sleeves two days before or if the closeout of Hancock Fabrics had everyone full, but there was quite a bit less fabric than usual but much more yarn. Patterns and magazines were okay but we both struggled to find ten or twenty (they are 10 for $1). Here was my modest haul:
More dots, book print, and swimsuit fabric
There were some accessory types of items:
Patterns, yarn in a bag (only wanted the cotton), woolly nylon serger thread
and even a slant shank walking foot:
Low shank slant needle walking foot: doesn't fit Singer 401's
On our way back to the car they had several bins of free fabric but you had to look pretty hard. There were some nice scraps of a denim with Lycra that I thought I could make leggings for my granddaughter. We kept digging and digging until we had a whole bag full! Here's my free stuff:
Denim, muslin, gold coated fabric
Who knows where these projects might end up? Once we got back to the car and determined we would have to wait another hour for the bag sale, we looked at each other and said "Let's go home and do yard work!" And we did.

It was a beautiful day, we had several hours together, we each knew how overstocked we already were with fabric and yarn we might not use so could walk away this time. It could have been a combination of things that kept us from returning but a sign of health when we recognized we didn't need to keep buying but now needed to get sewing. Or knitting. Or repairing sewing machines.

Sewing Machines! I almost forgot to tell you the big change in their sewing machine sales this year at the TCGS. In the past they had a silent auction for all kinds of bigger items from looms to sewing machines but this year everything was priced to sell. Prices were pretty low and a wide variety of machines, all with notes about condition. I could not resist a New Home XL-II with a note "needs work" because I had one of these that was such a gem and wrote about in A New Home for a New Home . I had the repair manual and if it needed a new feed dog gear I was ready! Here's the best part: it was only $5. I brought it home and found out the handwheel wasn't moving so I took out the needle, no movement, the bobbin case, no movement, the hook and its parts, and that's when my husband said from across the room "Look at all of the thread in there." Sure enough, thread was clogging up the works and when it was cleaned out the handwheel moved just fine. I plugged it in and away she ran.
Second time around: another New Home XL-II
More cleaning and oiling, taking the bottom off to clean and oil, there was nothing wrong with this machine! It has wonderful storage for the presser feet but this one did not come with any extras and that's too bad. My other sets of snap on feet don't fit in the top storage compartment and I would love for this machine to have a nice set like my previous one did:

Previous New Home XL-II with a full set of snap-on feet
A very complete set that I'm now coveting. I would also like an instruction manual but don't think that's going to be free but maybe I could spring for a new one since I got the machine at such a deal.

Moral of the story: you never know what is going to show up at these sales. It's garage sale season, folks, so do not despair because there's a vintage sewing machine out there with your name on it. You just need to find it. It's a quest. I know you can do it. Please report back to headquarters when you are successful. Signing off, it's your Sewing Machine Mavin.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dueling Sergers

I love a happy ending, don't you? I've learned in repairing old sewing machines that patience is not only a virtue, it is absolutely necessary if you are going to learn anything without breaking it first. Today's story is about a serger that I've had since August 2015, bought at a neighborhood garage sale:
Simplicity Easy Lock 800
It's fairly small but all metal so heavy and I like sergers this way: they don't jump all around at high speed and isn't that how many of us run our sergers? As it turns out, there is a tiny metal prong that is called a chaining tongue, needed for the formation of the typical interlocking of a three thread stitch. Here's how it's supposed to look:
Arrow points to the chaining tongue
Don't blink or you will miss it, it's that tiny. When needed it is pushed up into place by a lever and then pulled back when making a rolled hem. That seems easy enough but I found out it's so tiny and rather delicate and very easy to break. In fact, I broke three of them! By the time the third one broke I just said "Forget it: I'll just use it for rolled hems" because it make a nearly perfect rolled hem.

But that bugged me. I shouldn't have to keep it in the back, only to come out for a rolled hem. And then one came up on Goodwill Online auction and I got it. It's always my hope that I'll be able to fix something when there is a fully functioning one by its side. I ordered a new chaining tongue and then set them up:
Simplicity Easy Lock 800 side by side
It worked! As I could explore the newer, functioning model I could see how it was supposed to look. I had taken the whole lever and tongue off the machine and it was difficult to see how it would slide in:
Red arrow is on top of the lever
You have to position in just so, without the tongue screwed on, keep in in place while you got the tiny tongue screwed on with a nut on the backside...only to do it several times until I got it right. I have to admit, I'm not too crazy about pulling the lever back down due to breaking it so many times before but I think it's in there pretty good and if I'm careful it just might work. Whew!!!!

Now I have two cute little Simplicity Easy Lock 800 sergers, both with print manual and extra DC-1 needles in handy tote bags. I'm not too worried because they run well, compact, and will be price significantly lower than a new serger. I'm pleased with my efforts even if I did have to buy a spare serger to get it right.

For all you local readers, this is the big weekend for the Textile Center Garage Sale. I already volunteered yesterday, sorting books and magazines. There seemed to be a rather large number of them this year and I got to buy after my shift was over. Stay tuned to my next post where it's show-and-tell with all of the goodies!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It's All In The Timing

Excited about my Viking 12-1, I dug in and cleaned it, freed up the frozen places, and then had to re-time this baby. Did it come needing to be timed? I doubt it, but in order to get everything moving I released the lower shaft and figured that was going to be the price. Here's the part I released:
Hook drive shaft with hook mechanism in red box, screw to release with green arrow
The green arrow shows the screw I unscrewed that got everything moving but it also threw the timing off. When I went back to set the timing I couldn't figure out exactly how this was going to work without a special tool to measure it, something I always imagine the techs would have. Maybe not because a lot of it is just eyeballing it and testing over and over again. I could move the hook but it never seemed to be right, either way too much or too little, never getting the fine tuning right. When I sat back and looked more closely I discovered I was moving the hook way too easily and how was it going to stay in place?

Bobbin case in place with hook
Taking everything out and moving slowly, I could see how it was supposed to work:
Red arrow for hood, Green arrow for the needle
As the needle goes down the hook comes up and catches the thread as the needle retreats. There is just a small gap that is created for the hook to catch that thread. Pretty cleaver, huh? But I couldn't get the hook to stay in the perfect place because I failed to tighten the screws on the shaft in the first photo.
Set screws in red box: loosen up, position hook, then tighten
Of course, once tightened up it only took a little finessing to get it right and a final test and tightening. I could hardly believe I forgot how to do this but, heah, it's been a long winter and spring is finally here! I got the Viking 12-1 all threaded up and sewing in no time, sounding wonderful and with a bit of a zig-zig sound that is music to my ears.

So the Viking 12-1 that I picked up free but all frozen up, now works and is going to be a mighty fine sewing machine. I can't find a manual but it's pretty straight-forward. It came with a green metal hinged Husqvarna box with an oil can and set of bobbins but it really takes standard class 15 bobbins.
Oil can and bobbins (but what's with those plastic bobbins?)
This is a nice addition to a classic sewing machine that has so little written about it. Another oldie but a goodie, all for your reading pleasure:
Viking 12-1

Monday, April 10, 2017

It's the Little Things

When you are looking for a solution to a problem, sometimes it's the little things that become the solution. Twice in one week I had sewing machines that were sluggish or frozen up. My first find was a Viking 12-1:
Viking 12-1
It was posted on a local for sale site through Facebook but it wasn't for sale: it was free. I sent a message saying I only wanted the sewing machine, not the cabinet, but would take both and donate the cabinet if they didn't mind. Nope, she just wanted it gone. Come pick up day I get a message saying it would be in the driveway but they weren't going to be home. What? How was I going to get it in my car? Would I be brave/coward to just take the sewing machine and leave the cabinet? I hoped it wouldn't come to that but....

When I got to their house it was obvious they weren't at home when their dog was barking the whole time since I was an intruder on his turf. I got the machine out along with the motor block and foot control and some accessories in the desk. Now what? I knocked on the door anyway but no answer so I went back to the cabinet, removed the three drawers and gave a tentative lift. It wasn't as heavy as I thought so I carried it over to the back of the Jeep, gave a lift, and shoved it in. The drawers followed and I drove it straight over to one of the local thrift stores. They gladly took it and gave me a discount card, too!

Once home I set her up for cleaning and repair to find there was no movement. Taking the bobbin holder and entire mechanism out also didn't magically open it up either. I was back to Triflow and the heat of a hair dryer before there was a tiny amount of movement. Then I remembered to check for thread caught in any moving part and did find about five inches wound around the take up lever. Although it helped, there still is no movement of the hook. This is going to take some time and patience, I can see.

The next day I stopped at the Goodwill Outlet and spied a Necchi 531FA in a suitcase that appeared to be in good condition. It came home with me and cleaned right up and ran pretty good but there was some hesitation. Taking a look inside to find any place where it might be binding I found:
Necchi 531FA: do you see the red thread?

thread in the take up lever. This time it was closer to eight inches and was slow to be unwound. It ran better and I think it is going to be a fine sewing machine for the occasional sewer or a newbie.
Necchi 531FA all cleaned up
Yes, it can be the little things that trip us up. Yet they can be the pathway to a great find when the previous owner figured the sewing machine was just getting old and slow. Nope, just needed a little TLC, just like we all do as the years go by. Better get up and take that walk now.

Friday, April 7, 2017


I must be a sucker for the small surprise because I've fallen for those sewing machines that seem to rise up when you push a lever or open the lid. Remember my Singer 66 in its new cabinet that I wrote about in Easy Peasy? I love to show that off and see it rise up: everyone is surprised and a few are even astonished! Then I found a White in a Martha Washington table and was so enamored. I started looking for one and when you search you are just gonna find one. And here's what I found:

Martha Washington cabinet
It looked like it would work until I opened it up to find:
MW with nothing inside
It was empty inside, no mechanism to hold a sewing machine. That wasn't going to keep me back so I found a White treadle that I could take out the part that held the machine and I got to work. I would explain the process but it was so many months ago that I'm just a bit foggy on how I did it. But I took photos to share:
Insert in place

Insert ready for the machine
It fit but there was something missing. I got in contact with someone who sent photos of what hers' looked like inside to discover I was missing a small lever that engages when the lid lifts and the weight of the machine helps to start the downward motion. I had to set it aside until this week when I got one that's intact and affordable:
Martha Washington cabinet #2
As the lid lifts up the machine rises (the elevator!) until it's open and ready for sewing:
MW#2 open to a nice White rotary sewing machine
I had to change out the wire for the plug and it was one of the two-prong type but now it is safe. Here it is as the lid lifts and it is going down:
On the decent back into the cabinet
All in all, it had some of the same parts and some are different and I long for warmer weather when I can put this out on the garage floor and look it all over. For now it will have to do in my kitchen (yes, another sewing machine in the kitchen!). How does the sewing machine work? It stitches just fine but think there are bearings in the handwheel that are causing much noise. The motor is quiet but the handwheel is slightly wobbly so it is going to take some work. My husband says I need to use a gear puller and I found out he's right so now I wait until I have the right tools. It's going to be a nice sewing machine when I'm done and I have hopes for refinishing both cabinets this summer but for now I'm just going to admire them:
White rotary cleaned up and sewing again
Just goes to show you: wait long enough and the right one comes along. Oh, that sounds like love advice, doesn't it? But who says this isn't all for love of the sewing machine? Not you, my friend!