Wednesday, August 30, 2017


This blog puts me in touch with so many different people and some write to me with questions about their machines, some who want to buy one of my sewing machines, but this tale is about Erin who wanted to sell some "extra" sewing machines. Extra? I'm not sure I know what that means in Sewing Machine Mavin's world. There are no extras, just multiples. But Erin had sewing machines she knew she wasn't going to keep for one reason or another and proposed a group purchase. It was too good to pass up but I tried to sweeten the deal by telling Erin if she drove all the way to my house, instead of meeting part way, I would give her a tour of my sewing machines. It was a deal so we set up a time and then the countdown began. Someone was going to come into my basement and see what a mess I work in? That wasn't going to happen so I got to work in cleaning and reorganizing my machines and bins of fabric. It didn't help that I stopped at a garage sale and picked up another bin of fabric the day before. I had that bin ... but then I had all of that fabric to find homes for. This is the season for sewing up new items for the coming craft fairs so my hope was to have some of the fabric sewn up but for now it needed a new home.

In the meantime, while packing up her car and rearranging the sewing machines, she found two more for me, no additional charge, so now I was almost tingly with anticipation: how broken were the broken cases? How rare or expensive were the missing parts? Who was getting the better deal? Let's just see what happened.

Because this was a week after the garage sale, we still had some tables set up so when Erin arrived we just put them out on sturdy tables. One Kenmore, another Brother, a few no-names, a New Home, several Singers: we stopped and counted several times to see if they were all out of her car. It reminded me of a dog giving  birth to a litter of puppies: is she done yet? Are there more in there? Finally all ten were accounted for and we went over each one and its possible problems. Here's what I got: Kenmore 158-1320, Brother 1241,  Signature URR-988C, Montgomery Wards URR-385A, New Home 108, Janome 325-BBS, Helvetica (Singer 15 clone), Singer 237, Singer Merritt 1872, and a Singer 401A. Only a few needed cases or tables and missing parts were nominal. I think I scored big, Erin is glad to claim part of her basement back so it was a win-win.

After seeing what was in the garage, Erin was delighted to see how I managed to put so many sewing machines into such a small space. We fired up the White Rotary in the Martha Washington cabinet, got the treadle going, admired the decals on my Singer 99 handcrank, and she even got to see the Necchi in its hide-away cabinet:
Necchi Mira
Necchi compact cabinet: front pulls out to reveal a chair and storage
We did go downstairs and maybe she was appalled but she was a gracious guest and admired my many machines and the fabric that was intended to sew on them. Since she is a quilter and not a garment sewer, her interest was in the straight stitch models but I'm always fascinated by the decorative stitches and the stitch quality of the different machines. She did spy the Kenmore 158-1040 in its rose embossed case so we got it out to admire. Erin is a great Kenmore fan and had never seen this cute 3/4 sized machine and was pretty entranced with it.
Kenmore 158-1040
We also got out the Elna Lotus models, another 3/4 sized machine, and marveled at the ingenuity of how it all fit together. Maybe this all comes as a balance to her long arm quilting machine, a pretty large operation, to see these 3/4 sized machines that can sew but on a much smaller scale.
Elna Lotus, a 3/4 sized sewing machine
An hour had gone by and she needed to get back on the road and I needed to get back to my job at hand so we parted with a final photograph of Erin with some of her sold sewing machines:
Erin with a final goodbye to her sewing machines (why does she look so happy?)
You just never know where these stories are going to take you, do you? I'm up for an adventure and this time Erin and her extra sewing machines provided me with a reason to clean up my act but to show off a little bit, too. Thanks, Erin, for the new batch of projects and the hope of future sewers.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Spartans

Lucky me, I had a Singer Spartan given to me and here's her story of restoration. So what is a Spartan sewing machine and why that name?  A definition of spartan is suggestive of the ancient Spartans; sternly disciplined and rigorously simple, frugal, or austere. That does define this little sewing machine with minimal decorations:
Singer Spartan 192K
It reminds me of a Singer 99 but it is actually a 192K, made in Great Britain. Bob and Jane found this machine and hoped it could be used by immigrants they were working with but it never seemed to come together and now they hoped I could get it in shape and find it a new home. Cosmetically it was great but there were other problems.

The black plastic base has spacers all around the edge that hold the machine in place but two of them were broken off. I tried using E6000 glue but the machine is just too heavy but they didn't break off, just sunk down, too low to support the machine on one end. After a few weeks on my work table I came up with a solution: cut a wood bloc the right size and put it in place on the low side. It was easy and worked great as you can see in the photo above there is no low end.

The tension was off as well as the movement of the feed dogs but I finally got everything all limbered up and running right. Then, out of the blue, one of the thread guides snapped off. Do you think I could find one in my parts box? Of course not, but there were others yet they all needed to be screwed on and the hole was not threaded. Out came a hand drill and I made the hole bigger to accept a very tiny screw for the guide. I'm not telling you which thread guide it is and hope you can't tell but it's holding so far.

I needed to test the machine out and couldn't think of a better way than to sew up a cover for it since it came without a plastic lid. Actually, it looks like there never was one since there are no latches on the base. Here's what the stitching looks like:
Stitches inside of the cover

Top stitching on the outside
I was pretty happy with the cover by the time I finished, adding the piping to give it more shape and definition around the bottom edge:
Robert Kaufman print of spools and needles: so cute!
The Spartans really are austere: no light either! Even the wiring is directly from the motor, no separate power cords. I put together some accessories and covered the box with a black marble print sticky paper:
Accessories needed for sewing machines: bobbins and needles
and will print out the manual that is only four pages. Four pages! Yes, that is spartan. It won't need to be bound but maybe I can add some basic sewing instructions to make it more substantial and not get lost or tossed.

A big thanks to Bob and Jane for their generous hearts in donating this little cutie. Also in their garage was a treadle cabinet that was missing drawers but was still possibly worth restoring. Not a Singer, but maybe a New Home so not impossible to find those drawers somewhere. There's always another project around the corner, isn't there? Here's one last look at the Spartan:

Spartan, Singer 192K

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Old Friends and New Friends

We are in the midst of a garage sale but I just had to quickly write this post in to keep you up-to-date. While we were getting ready and I'm picking out just a few of my machines to sell (two were only $30!) I'm still buying sewing machines. This is a very serious addiction. Anyway, here I am, picking up two Kenmore's that are just too good to be true. The Kenmore 158-1525 is just lovely, needing nothing but a light cleaning and some oil:
Kenmore 158-1525
As it turned out, a student at my school was selling it via Facebook Marketplace so imagine our mutual surprise when we were arranging time and place. The next day I stop over by the hospital to pick up a very nice Kenmore 385-162184 that was part of an estate sale. The seller told me someone else came to buy it and it skipped stitches so the buyer declared it needed to have the timing fixed and it wasn't worth that kind of a repair. The seller was just being upfront as she now saw it as a parts machine. As we talked on the phone I reassured her it probably wasn't the timing but more likely needed a new needle or some minor tweaking. Once home, rather than get things ready for the garage sale I just had to take a look: it was the wrong bobbin. There were clear plastic bobbins in the accessory box that were class 15 and one class 66. Yup, another class 66 was in the bobbin holder but Kenmore's are almost always class 15. Switched it out and it runs beautifully. I love the tapestry bag it came it, too, another plus:
Kenmore 385-162184 with tapestry bag
In a couple hours I had an appointment to sell some beginner sewing machines to Amy who is working with students who are learning to sew. This time I picked out a Singer 237 (classic), Elnita 220, and a J.C. Penny 7102. The stretch stitches sold her on the Elnita and Penny's sewing machines:
J.C. Penny 7102
Amy had asked if I could check out her "problem" machines so she dropped of a Janome that she said wasn't computerized. Well, it had an LCD display so that makes it computerized or at least electronic but I promise to take a look. Then there was a Riccar in an old suitcase type of carrier that she said was donated but I could just take it. Looks like it going to need some work on the tension dial since all of the parts aren't there. I'm excited to get a free machine that holds promise even though I have shelves full of the same. See, it's an addiction.
Riccar 8500
But before Amy came over, while the beginner's sewing machines were just getting set up, I get a call from Cheri, an old friend of sewing machine buying and selling. Do I have a Singer 404, she asks? As a matter of fact I do but she has to hurry since I have another appointment coming over. The Singer 404, a straight stitch only machine but gear driven, was just perfect for her friend and the price was perfect, too, since it was less than half the cost of a machine she had first looked at. They are nice machines but plentiful so no highway robbery is needed!
Singer 404 (same model, different case)
Cheri has more good news: remember the combination table with the Singer 99 in a bentwood case that fit down into the table?  I wrote about it in In a Line Up and now you are going to get a great follow-up to this little beauty. Cheri knew Bonnie Hunter, of Quiltville fame, would love it but figured it wasn't going to ship too well so she declared she would travel from Minnesota to North Carolina to bring it herself. In our get together this last week Cheri told me all about it and even sent me the link from Bonnie's blog about her Road Trip with the Minnesota Girl's! adventure. I loved reading about the joy this great little Singer 99 gave Bonnie and now hear she's gotten rid of her other 99's since this one was her best one! Here's one last photo of the Singer 99 and Combination Table No. 301:
Singer 99 in Combination table 301
Serious addiction or just another way to make friends while you love what you're doing? Who knows but I'm still havin' fun in the summertime here in Minnesota.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Maker Space

My work in a college library sometimes takes me down some interesting paths. Maker Spaces are a new term that has been coined to describe a place where ideas can become reality. Three D printers were the start of this kind of movement and it has grown to include all kinds of equipment and supplies. Our Maker Space includes a green screen, recording equipment, computers and special software, button making machine, manual typewriters, and even a sewing machine. Enter stage left, a Singer 237 from the Sculpture Department of the Art Department:
Singer 237 in table
It was full of plaster dust but with cleaning it came out working just fine. It's not too fancy but it does have zigzag and the feed dogs can drop and that was basically what we were looking for.  I made up the instruction sheets that are taped to the wall in the above photo and brought in a few basic supplies that we keep in a make-up tackle box and a common paper box:
Singer 237 with supplies
Free motion embroidery was practiced and I finally claimed some success by using a spring-loaded presser foot:
Darning foot with spring worked the best
So how was I going to demonstrate what this set-up could do? Enter Pinterest with so many ideas on free-motion sewing that I could hardly decide.  With much practice and some fabric from home I came up with the idea of making a tote bag, something our students might find useful. With my two samples of free motion stitching (I can hardly call them embroidery), I used the cat as a pocket and the vase as contrasting decoration for each side of the bag. Enter a serger:
Serger on loan with sewing machine at the back wall
for sturdy stitching and to give some interest in using this kind of a tool. Here are a few of the steps I took:
Front and back laid out with straps ready to be sewn down
Bias strips encased the top edge with long straps from top to bottom.
Stitching the cat pocket over the strap
The cat pocket was sewn on last right next to the rolled edge made on the serger.
Serger seam for strength and durability
I had to serger one edge twice because the first pass was made without the presser foot down. Yikes! We all make mistakes.
Tote bag side one

Tote bag side 2 with pocket
I can't say it was simple but it was creative and a way to show many skills at once, the types of sewing and serging that would be available. I'm hoping this is interesting to our students who might have their own ideas for bags or pillows or whatever they might be thinking about sewing. Now we wait for students to return from summer break and see what interest they might have in the Maker Space. You just never know when your "other" skills might be used while you are on the job!

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