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 interested...so 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 me....no. 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.