Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hidden Compartments

I love to watch those who-done-it television shows and movies, trying to figure out the solution to the mystery. The same thing goes for sewing machines where I'm trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Sometimes there are secrets to discover and this post is about a sewing machine cabinet that has a secret and I'm on the hunt to find one!

It all started with Judy who traveled down from the Fargo/Moorhead area to buy a Brother Select-O-Matic. She already had one and wanted mine to try and fix hers. But why was this machine so prized? I've had several of them and agree they are really nice but it was a very long drive to pick up this particular sewing machine. Judy had a cabinet that was very, very special:
Treadle/electric cabinet: Brother decal
It's convertible from treadle to electric: the iron treadle foot peddle is hinged on the side so it can be disengaged. Then there is a door that covers the whole rest of the treadle parts (wheel, rods, etc.) and now there is room to place the electric foot control on the floor, where the treadle foot peddle was, so you can run the machine via electricity. There would be a minor step of changing the large treadle belt for a smaller belt that would now attach to a motor, but that should be fairly easy. That's what I call a "convertible treadle" cabinet.
Door opens to reveal wheel, stores electric foot control, hinged treadle peddle
Judy has only seen one other cabinet like this and I have not seen even one so I figured they were pretty scarce but I'm patient. That lasted about a minute and then I went searching. So far I have found two in the Midwest, one about four hours away and on the way to Illinois or Milwaukee:
Another version
Pretty rough shape and the opening is only for a sharp edged machine like a Kenmore. I kept looking and found one in Nebraska that is is much better shape but not on the way to where I might travel:
Right idea and in much better shape
I will keep searching and will find one if I'm just patient enough to wait it out. It's like a mystery, isn't it? It might not be listed as a treadle but only a sewing machine cabinet and you have to look at the photos carefully to see if it has a hidden compartment that holds the treadle components.

The search is on!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Getting Ready

It's that time of year when we all feel the need to clean and purge from the long winter and being indoors. It's still pretty cold here in Minnesota but the bug still bites and we are cleaning out. The Textile Center Annual Garage Sale is April 14 and I've collected a few things and then started to clean out some drawers. This prompted me to set aside fabric for making those cute zippered circle bags/pouches/holders for earbuds (or mirror, coins, etc.). Only a small amount of fabric was returned to the drawer but I fear I have too many of the earbud circles cut out to be practical. But I soldier on!

After a bit of mending I noticed the cotton knit swimsuit I had cut out for my granddaughter that needed sewing and the serger was all set up and ready. I forgot how easy these were to make and quite satisfying. This isn't for swimming but for the gymnastics class she is now taking so I asked if she could use a skirt or pair of shorts so here's the final result:
Kwik Sew 3785 in cotton knit size medium

Suit, shorts, and drawstring bag
I still had a small amount of fabric left over so I made up a drawstring tote bag for the whole outfit. Doesn't every diva need a bag for their items? Of course.

While the serger was set up I also stitched up the dog pads that were all cut out but they were a bigger challenge that I had hoped. Two layers of fleece and polyester batting, too? My serger would stitch it but the differential feed struggled as I did to keep things straight. In the end they turned out pretty good and the not-great-edge didn't look too shabby:
My collection of fleece dog pads
It's hard to see in the photos but after they were stitched on three sides, I turned them right side out, stitched the fourth side closed, then stitched about 1.5 inches from the outside edge. This is in hope of the filler not shifting in washing but I'm going to wash them to see how good they actually work. Although I want to keep the center open (without stitches) they may need more work to make them really washable.

As always, I need to report on the machines I used in making all of the above. My main serger is a Bernina 1100DA that I continue to love, but it's a Bernina so I would expect it to be good. For the fleece fourth edge and top stitching I used the Consew CP206R, an industrial walking foot machine that is not a joy to use but it gets the job done and does it well. I can't wait for the weather to warm up so I can get out to the garage and sew on the industrial Singer 78 but it's only March in Minnesota and there's a whole lot of winter left even though the calendar says spring. I know the wonderful summers in Minnesota are coming but there are days when it's hard to wait!
Consew CP206R portable walking foot industrial

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Today is a celebration: my mom went home one year and 3 weeks ago and today would have been her 90th birthday so it is a celebration in a sense. This past weekend was a bridal shower for one of her granddaughters in Milwaukee and I got my act together early and made up a tea towel printed with one of my mom's recipes. I've done this before when my mom was still with us but now it takes on new meaning to see her handwriting, recall her comments "Oh! I have to have that recipe!" and then to have something so practical to use:

Mom's handwritten recipe card with my recipe for a chicken dish
Along with the towel, printed via Spoonflower, I made up a pair of hot mitts because everyone needs a pair in their kitchen.
Tea towel, hot mitts with bag (folded)
I was getting ready to send them off when I thought about a gift bag, wrapping paper, wrinkled contents...and I think I can do something better. Checking to make sure I still had fabric left over, I made up a tote bag, decorating it with stitches from my latest Bernina 730 Record sewing machine. It turned out cute and was a nice alternative to a paper gift bag that others toss (of course, I have to save mine). I sent it off to my sister and added a photo of how it was to be assembled for the actual present:
See? Stuff and tie up like this...
She loved it! I was so happy that it made a hit and was like having my mom and I both at the shower, too. We'll be going to the wedding later in the spring where we will miss my mom who wouldn't have missed it for anything if she was still here with us. Yes, you can tell it's been a hard year for me without her.
Kristen with towel (she looks happy!)
March madness continues with the Viking 19 already getting interest and the Brother Select-O-Matic getting picked up on Saturday. This is so exciting! I love these machines but I can't keep them all and have had these two sitting around and just waiting for new owners. Jess called me and was sure the Viking 19 was the model he wanted even though he's a first time sewing machine owner. But since he's coming from about two hours southeast of me it's going to take some finagling to get some time off to come pick it up.

On the same day I get a call from Judy who already has a Brother Select-O-Matic but the cam shaft is frozen and neither the local tech or her own super powers can get it moving enough to function. That's alright since she can buy mine to see if she can figure out how to fix hers. Yes, that is one method I've used myself and she doesn't mind using that tactic because she knows she can still sell it if she doesn't need it in the end. How fun to think she knows exactly what she's getting! Judy also lives about 2+ hours away but it's northwest of me and won't be able to make the trip until the weekend but I'm good with that plan, too. Both of these machines are gems that don't come up for sale too often and that's a testament to how good they are: you keep the good ones!

We are celebrating today: life looks hopeful as we can look back without pain or too much regret, and can look forward to new adventures that await us. As always, there is so much sewing and so little time yet so many, many sewing machines to try! Which one are you using today?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March Madness

It's been a very busy month of sewing machine buying and selling so I've had the chance to reorganize the basement workroom. It was getting a little ridiculous down there and I don't even want to pretend it is normal to have aisles you walk down because things are stacked up. Doesn't this sound like a hoarder's lament? Please, I am not a hoarder but I needed to prove that to myself.

Due to the number of machines I came across this past fall from Erin, Mindy, and Judy, I needed to work on getting those machines diagnosed, fixed or parted out, sold or at least labeled, and I think I've finally done it. The empty cases finally made it to the garage attic, only pulling three back inside to put machines in, and placing the project machines at the back of the room with machines for sale in the front. I have had a wonderful donation of batting from Mindy and then bought more cotton batting at a terrific price but it takes up so much space! Finally, I pulled out fleece and batting to make up some cat and dog kennel mats/pads and could consolidate containers. Whew!

With sales high I can get more listed and I found a couple I just know someone will love as I do: another Brother Select-o-Matic in teal and a Viking 19, such a green beauty:
Brother Select-O-Matic in teal

Viking Husqvarna 19
Both machines are in beautiful condition and stitch nicely, too. Manuals were printed off and the Viking 19 got a spiral binding, a little feature I can now add from home. Unfortunately, if I want to make the Brother manual correctly paginated I'll have to scan it over again but I inwardly groan when I think about doing that so I printed off what I had, hoping just to have the information is helpful.

Of course, I've been doing a little sewing, too, and made up those little zippered cases for earbuds:
Earbud holders in three flavors
It would be too easy to just stitch these up so I used an idea I found in an art museum shop by weaving vinyl tape measures together for the back:
I hope they "measure up"
What machine did I use? A Bernina 730, of course, since they can sew on any fabric and give such a nice result. They take too long to make but are way too much fun so I hope to make up 4 more from what's left of the set of a dozen measuring tapes. Sometimes it's all about the fun and isn't that why we have so many sewing machines? Some are just more fun than others or give us a joy to use once in awhile.

I'll leave with final photos of my sewing/workroom: don't judge, there's a lot of living done in that space.
Sewing project on the right with machines I'm now using...
...and machines on the left, oh so many machines!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bernina, Bernina, Where Have You Been So Long?

The title of today's post comes from the old song Corrina, Corrina:
Corrina, Corrina,
Gal, where you been so long?
Corrina, Corrina,
Gal, where you been so long?
I been worryin' 'bout you, baby,
Baby, please come home.

I had a Bernina Record 730 given to me by a co-worker back in the summer of 2014 but it was a bit of a mixed blessing. The push button on the light didn't work and there was white smoke coming out of the motor! At the time I had Rick Engle, bless his heart, look at it and even though he changed one of the belts he had to admit the motor was on its way out. It came with all of its accessories, extension table, carrying case, all of the cords, but I had to put it away. Two years later I bought another one but it had a broken gear and I relegated it to a parts machine. Since I've been selling Bernina's lately I looked at what I had left and found the two parts machines, a Record 730 and a Minimatic 807. Could I use any of those parts now?
Bernina Record 730 with new light
Out came the 730 and the push button light situation. It was an easy replacement with only a few screws to remove the plate and two screws to remove the light. It worked perfectly so I was feeling a little bold and decided to test out the motor again only to find the white smoke. Could I just switch motors? Maybe. I took a look to see how they were being attached only to find four screws once they were released from the base plate. Let's give it a try!
Screws in only 4 places to attach the motor
First I removed the good motor from the parts machine and cleaned off the housing. It wasn't really bad, just grimy. I checked the brushes to find them in good shape, too. 
Brushes saved from the bad motor
Next I removed the bad motor, noting it was attached nearly the same but there are always little differences. I couldn't help but see how discolored the shield was over the wiring as noted below:
Amber colored shield circled
That's what it looked like inside of the motor, too: sticky and amber in color. All put back together with the housing cleaned up, it worked great. It's not a new motor but certainly functional and no more white smoke!
Motor in place
It might not be Corrina, Corrina, I've been worryin' about you baby but more like Bernina, Bernia, where have you been so long. Now she's back and working just fine.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Waste Not Want Not

I continue to use the pieced quilt blocks my sister made as it seems they are just too good to throw away. It also seems I keep getting better ideas for how to use them, too, but that just practice, practice, practice. At first I simply sewed the blocks together, added a layer of cotton batting and backing, a bit of free motion quilting, and it was fashioned into a sewing machine cover:
Cover for a Bernina
 Then I figured out how to sew them together with sashing between the blocks and free motion quilting on the sashing:

Free motion on the sashing
Not bad but I really stink at free motion: how much practice does it take? Maybe I'm impatient (just ask DH) but after hours of practice I"m still very much a beginner. For my next project, I got out fabric for sashing but decided since I wanted a cover for my Viking Designer 1, maybe I should use some of the features available to highlight what it could do. On the horizontal bands I added decorative stitching but on the vertical bands I wanted to make the stitching fill the space. This entailed downloading designs, copying to a 3.5" floppy via Sew-What-Pro software, setting up the embroidery arm, and trying to remember how this all works. It was so much fun!

Here's the front panel (that became the back when it wasn't centered):
Oops, a little to the right

Back panel that is now the front (live and learn):
A little low but much better with different colors

Now I needed to make the side panels and here was a blank slate to fill and two of them to boot. Looking at the free to download patterns wasn't quite what I wanted but $5 downloads didn't seem right either. I found a site where there were many $1-2 downloads and hundreds of sewing themed designs, too. Here's the first side:
Scissors, tomoato pincushion, thread: it's all there!

It was fun to pick colors (glad I bought spools of embroidery thread from several ads and offerings) and watch the machine put it all together. The fabric is fairly stiff but in my naivete I put it in the hoop with batting and backing, too. That could have been a disaster but it actually turned out fine. I had something similar for the other side but it seemed like overkill and would take several hours to complete so I opted for a simpler design:
Pink letters with green leaves

Reminding myself to check the bobbin, I promptly put the hoop in the machine and started stitching away but forgetting to reload the bobbin. The pink words were all finished and halfway through the green leaves I get a broken upper thread symbol and a stoppage.  I rethread the top thread but the message doesn't go away. I'm pretty sure this has to be an empty bobbin but it's not the bobbin symbol so what do I do now? To get to the bobbin I need to pull off the embroidery unit...and it turns out that's not a good idea. Although I get the bobbin changed when I put it all back together it starts all over again. That's right, from the very beginning. No, no, no... I reread the manual (not covered), check the files and conversations on the D1 Yahoo group, but can't seem to find out how to advance to the spot I left off. I took my own advice and walked away, hoping for inspiration.

Help came from another Viking D1 owner who has given me help before: Virginia came to my rescue! I sent off a tearful email about what I was trying to do, what happened, and pleaded for guidance. After shoveling snow and checking on dinner Virginia sent back detailed steps on how to get back to where I needed to be. It was right in front of me but I just didn't understand and her instructions made it so clear. I was back in business, finished up the panel, and got it all together with the help of a serger for the seams. Overall it's pretty good, fits perfectly, used up more of the blocks, and will keep my sewing machine clean when it is idle. It's never idle? Of course it has to sit and wait while I work on other sewing machines or tend to projects that do not use such a fine sewing machine, such as the hot mitts and jean repair.

So many sewing machines, so little time...

Friday, March 2, 2018


Lately I've been repairing more sewing machines even though I'm still selling. Last week I got a call from Lois who was looking for one of my Singer sewing machines she saw on Craigslist. The white Featherweight? No, she didn't think so as it was black but I didn't have a black Singer listed. After calling her husband into the game it was decided they would come over to see if I could repair her Singer and would look at one of mine if I couldn't fix hers. Even though I asked which model she had I didn't get a definitive answer but that was okay: I would deal with it when they came.

Saturday morning Lois arrived and her husband came in with a cardboard box that was put on the kitchen table. I opened it up to find:
Humble cardboard box

Singer 221

a Singer 221, aka the Featherweight. What? Lois had never heard this nickname for her old sewing machine and looked at her husband when I told her it was a valuable model. They quietly related their story of buying it in the early '60's over at the little Singer store in Apache Plaza, an early enclosed shopping center near Minneapolis. Apache Plaza suffered a memorable tornado in 1984 and closed in 2004, before I moved to Minnesota but I have heard many stories about it. To them it was just the sewing machine she always used for mending and hemming his pants and he noted he was "vertically challenged."

Although it looked okay, the handwheel was not moving a full rotation and was sticking somewhere. I took the needle out and the bobbin case but it was still not moving yet the bobbin case looked odd. It had black crusty marks on it and I asked what had happened but neither of them knew. I figured I could puzzle it out and said I would get it in working order in a week and they could come back to pick it up. No problem since Lois said he still had other pants to wear. As they were walking out the door they mentioned it had a case but it wasn't much and got destroyed in "the flood." Lois looked at him quizzically and he explained about the leak in the plumbing and the the resulting water in the basement. That was clue one.
Damaged bobbin case

As I took it apart, I could see that it had been cared for and was in good shape as far as the gears and motor were concerned, just a bit dull on the finish of the exterior. What caused it to seize up? Rust from long ago that had built up on the shaft of the hook and the hook itself but had turned black over time. Scraping it away reveled the familiar red rust underneath that I could remove by soaking in Evaporust, sanding with emory cloth, and just sheer persistence. Cleaning the exterior of the machine revealed some mottling that was under the dirt on the top, probably more exposure to the moisture than the other parts.The decals were quite good and the bed cleaned up nicely but had really been used with many dings on its surface but it was meant to be used!
Singer 221 ready to sew again
 This just goes to show you one man's utility is another man's treasure. For Lois, this was her trusty little sewing machine that was handy but old and maybe she should think about an upgrade. At that point I could have easily talked her into another sewing machine and taken her's in as a trade. That would be dishonest as this was very repairable and resale would be excellent. If you are a regular reader of Sewing Machine Mavin I hope you know I wouldn't do that! It's going back home with Lois and will enjoy many more years of repairs but she might not drop it off at Goodwill when they downsize but consider selling it or giving it to a beloved grandchild. She does have my business card, just in case.