Sunday, April 29, 2018

Are You Reliable?

In the past I have ranted about people who are no-shows so I bet you think this is going to be another post where I jump up on my soap box and complain about this type of behavior. Nope! This is about an industrial sewing machine with the brand "Reliable" so let's just hope it is.

Since I'm still deep into industrial sewing machines and they haven't grown old (yet), I spied a portable industrial that I had never heard of before, the Reliable. Some quick research showed me this was a decent machine, not as good as a Sailrite, but not bad either, especially if I knew what I was doing. It further interested me because it not only was an industrial walking foot but a zigzag model. Walking foot zigzag? Now they had me: I had to go check it out. And it came home with me:
Reliable Barracuda 200ZW industrial walking foot
It runs but I think they send them out with a bit of test fabric and absolutely no oil. I have been oiling and oiling it ever since and finally got out a can of TriFlow oil just to get in all those space I could not see. It worked! It is running smoother and quieter so, hopefully, I just need to keep it oiled now for peak performance. Here's a closer look at this baby:
Walking foot

Walking foot side view

Walking foot mechanism on back
This type of walking foot is quite the marvel with feed dogs on the top with the foot and feed dogs underneath coming up from the bed of the machine. They work together for that even feed of the fabric. This is so crucial when I'm making my hot mitts pot holders so the sandwich of the fabric, Insulbright, and cotton batting stay together instead of sliding off. Beats me why all machines don't have this feature! Here's more photos of under the hood:
Reliable Barracuda 200ZW bird's eye view with top cover removed

Under side plate
It only looks scary inside but you need to respect the power a sewing machine like this has. So how does it sew? I had some skipped stitches in the beginning so I adjusted the turn of the needle. This uses a DP-17 with a round shank so it is very easy to be just a tad rotated too far and cause the eye of the needle to be off for the hook to pick up the thread loop. Here's the stitches I made:
Straight, zigzag, skips, correct
I love the ability to have zigzag for binding edges and even making buttonholes. There was a time when I made buttonholes just using different widths of the zigzag stitch so I know it can be done! The portable case for this model is way too overpriced and, thankfully, out of stock so I'm not tempted to buy one. It does fit it into one of my wood boxes and think this is pretty decent:
Reliable Barracuda 200ZW in wood base
 The motor hangs off the back so that precludes putting a cover on it anyway but just gave it a bit more stability. I need smaller needles than the size 21 that came with it so I can try it out on my hot mitts. Here's hoping it can replace the Consew CP206R that needs a hack to lift the presser foot higher. I keep sewing and trying out new-to-me ideas for making these things work better, smarter, faster or with less ripping out of seams, as well as just a better product. Who knows? This might just be a more reliable sewing machine.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Birds of a Feather

I'm always curious about different sewing machines that I've not been exposed to yet and it has gotten me in trouble from time to time. I hoped this wasn't going to be the case this time but so far I'm safe.

In one of the many groups I belong to I saw and ad for an Ever Sewn Sparrow 30 sewing machine. After a bit of research I found many happy owners and since it was offered at half price I figured I could take a chance. It arrived this week and I have to say it's pretty cute in light pink. That's right, another pink sewing machine but it is so pale that you cannot tell it's pink in most lights. There's a cute sparrow on the front so it does look pretty feminine:
Ever Sewn Sparrow 30
The handy stitch card shows all of the possible stitches but I still had to get out the manual to figure out which "mode" I needed to be in. This is the way with many electronic and computerized sewing machines so nothing new. It keeps the front of the machine simpler with just the basic utility stitches right on the face:
Sparrow 30 basic  stitches on panel
Sparrow 30 stitch card: oh boy!
Mine came fully-loaded with the extension table, extra proprietary bobbins, a quilt kit that includes a walking foot, plus a printed manual:
Quilt kit: walking foot, free motion foot, 2 more feet, 2 quilting guides

Cute title on manual: "Love at first stitch"
There is storage in the front compartment as well as the bobbin box so there's plenty of room for all those do-dads. It stitches fine, the alphabet was easy to use (but a little hard to read?), so what is the big deal about this sewing machine? Well, it includes some nice features only found on some of the more expensive models, such as needle up/down, memory storage, and (my favorite) thread cutter. No, I don't mean that little side slicer but a process where the threads are pulled under and snipped about an inch from the last stitch. That is soooooo nice! You don't need it all the time but once you get used to it it is hard to do without.
Handy buttons: stop/start, thread snips, reverse, stitch in place, needle up/down

Snipped thread
A nice extension table for larger projects is fairly standard but this one is nice and sturdy:
Sparrow 30 with extension table
You have to remove the storage compartment and that's when I discovered you have to remove it just to open it and take out a different foot:
Storage container with open flap facing machine body: design flaw?
And here's a few stitches I tried out the first night:
Script is not easy to read but this fabric is a little busy for letters
There are other nice features such as sewing without a foot control by just using the stop and start button. If you have it on the slower speed, this can be pretty nice. There is a stitch-in-place button for sealing off a stitch/seam without using the backstitch, something else I have grown used to. I have it set up to do more than practice sewing and hope to make something significant on it so I can give it a fair review but so far it is pretty nice. It has the cute factor and is more than functional. Will I keep it or will this Sparrow fly away soon? You never know...

Saturday, April 21, 2018


As my space for sewing machines, their repair, equipment, and storage of all of this does not grow any larger, I keep resolving not to buy any more machines. Notice I say resolve and I have not been very good at keeping this firm determination. Although I continue to sell many sewing machines and do reject any number I see advertised and in shops, there are some that I have not been able to refuse. My last post, Blizzard!, reported about the Singer 31-15 industrial machine, table, and motor that I brought home. It took a whole week before I could figure out a way to get it out of my vehicle without hurting myself or calling in the muscle. With the head already out and in the house just the heavy clutch motor was holding it all down so I crawled into the back of the Jeep and started unscrewing. There were six screws and a belt holding it in place and then some electrical connections. With my husband's help we got the electrical wires disengaged but still usable. Now to order a new servo motor: there are so many kinds/brands/features that I'm overwhelmed but I'll figure this out, too. Ratings are all over the place but I have to consider who I would be selling this to. It's not for true industrial work but for the hobbyist who needs something with more piercing power and strength.
Back of industrial Singer 31-15 sewing machine table with motor and head removed
Now that we are assured winter is over and spring might actually have a chance, I can get back to having sewing machines and their tables in the garage. We actually got both industrial tables set up at the back of the garage along with a Wheeler and Wilson #9 treadle.
Singer 78 and 31-15 at the back of the garage
Then I have 2 compact cabinets along the side next to the wall of the house. Along with lawn mowers and the usual garage stuff, we still managed to get both cars in the garage! That is until we bought a snow blower: after winter is over and no more snow is predicted, we get our first snow blower. It came via friends who are moving to San Diego and clearly had no need of one so we agreed upon a fair price and picked it up last night. That sounded easy, didn't it? As it turns out, it was way too big and heavy at 250 pounds for my Jeep and my back so we recruited my son-in-law who has a pickup and muscles for the job. He brought a friend along and they made it look easy but I'm sure it was not. In return we filled up his tank and vacuumed out the cab, the least we could do for him.
Craftsman 28" snow thrower
The seller told us there was no electric starter on it and proceeded to show us how it worked without it; we were disappointed but it was not a deal breaker. The next day a neighbor came over and he and my husband worked on it and he said the electric start was right there on the side. Sure enough, it works like a charm. What a deal! Sometimes blessings come in ways we never expected.

We just found out we have a granddaughter who not only enjoyed her sewing lesson a few weeks ago, she really wants a sewing machine for her birthday. I suggested she get one at the beginning of the summer so she has all those hours to fill with learning how to use a sewing machine and to sew. We have agreed upon an Elna 1500 that should be a good place to start:
Elna 1500
That's how blessings work, isn't it, when someone can sell me a snow blower at a ridiculous price and I can give away a sewing machine to a younger learner. That always feels so good!

Sunday, April 15, 2018


We are at the end of a spring blizzard here in Minnesota and I don't mean the kind you get at Dairy Queen. Given plenty of warning, we knew it was coming and could be prepared but it still surprised us with the amount of snow and general blizzard conditions. It has been awhile since we had a snowfall like this and, after all, it is mid-April when we should start to see bulbs coming up, not snowfall. It's not over yet and we think we have over 18 inches of snow now.

In the midst of it all, people are still buying sewing machines! I talked more than one person out of driving over to get one, especially since the Necchi is in a cabinet and would take several trips out to their vehicle and right now you cannot even drive up our driveway.

Necchi Mira in compact cabinet
Motivated by a new grandchild, Eileen wanted to buy a fairly new Brother sewing machine that was my sisters but she's on a long weekend down here from "up north" and not sure about driving back after all of this snow. My advice was to play it by ear and if the driving is good just stop in on her way home but if she gets on the road and is white knuckling it she can just keep driving and come down another day.

Before all of this started, I had the chance to buy a Singer 31-15 in a table with a clutch motor for a very good price but there were delivery problems. It was through Facebook Marketplace and turned out to be only two miles down the road. We showed up the first night to pick it up but no one was home. Many apologies later, they would deliver it to us the next night. Great! Several hours later I get a text saying it is too heavy and they will need more muscle. I suggest they take the head out of the table since that is probably half of the weight. More time passes: how do you get it out? I understand how that might look confusing and trying to give directions via text seemed silly so I said I would be right over. Jen was so sweet: this was her mother-in-laws and they were emptying out her house and knew nothing about sewing machines. This sounds pretty simplistic but I looked at the machine sitting in the table, tipped it back, and then just lifted straight up on the pins and pulled it out. Jen yells "Honey, she just took the machine out of the table! Come look!" Now the table was light enough to be carried up the steps and out into my car by two burly men. It's still in the back of my Jeep since I needed to get my car into the garage with the predicted snow that was sure to bury anything left outdoors.

Singer 31-15 head
I got to hear the stories about Mary who did all of her sewing on the Singer 31-15, an avid crafter and quilter. The serial number was such a hoot: dated to July 21, my birth date, but back to 1902, not my birth year! This particular machine had been a treadle, indicated by the spoked handwheel, and the date just confirmed that. The table is fine but it looks like a very old clutch motor and I'm thinking about getting servo motors for both of the industrials I now own. Stay tuned to the progress on the industrial front.

Back of Singer 31-15: lever for knee lift of the presser foot
The day wears on and Eileen is not driving back north today and we will try to connect next weekend instead. I did have one of the quilting ladies show up this afternoon for a free motion lesson. I basically just watched how she was doing it, admiring her skills and planning but she just needed to slow down. That was it, just slow down. But I know with so many things it just takes someone else to talk to about our latest project or skill to see if it can be improved upon or why I'm not happy with the results of my efforts.  All in a days work it seems.

What did I make while confined indoors for two whole days? I managed to take an office/sewing chair that needed new upholstery and get it all striped down the finished:

From green crushed velvet to navy basket weave
This was a somewhat fun project since the cushions were in good condition, fairly clean, and the new fabric was only $1.25 at Goodwill on their last 75% off day. A couple of hours of work and only $2 in supplies: I call that a lot of bang for my buck as well as a nice way to spend our time in confinement. We are dreaming of June and long days of sunlight with warm breezes. Dreaming, yes, dreaming.

Friday, April 13, 2018


It's that time of year again for the Textile Center Garage Sale but we fear the weather is going to put a real damper on the whole shebang. Along with gathering up my donations of fabric, patterns, and miscellaneous items (doll hair and eyes?) I signed up to volunteer during the setup time. In the past I have worked at the registration table, sorting fabric, and books so this year I worked with the patterns and I have to say it was overwhelming. Along with having boxes and boxes to sort, we really did not have the space to display the boxes in a single layer but it was only the first day of setting up so I hope they find more table space somewhere, somehow. But it was still exciting!

As I went through the boxes of sewing patterns, it was fun to see the organization of those who donated. There would be a group of children's patterns from the '90's, vintage Vogue, then modern Burda all in the same box, probably from the same donor. When a nest of vintage was found I was always excited and found the following that reminded me of my sewing days in high school:
Dresses I remember making, dated 1967

There were a few I had to get for my granddaughter, Emma, who loves to wear swimsuits all summer long and is now in gymnastics:
Little girl slips, dancewear, and swimsuits
For our Maker-Space at work, I bought a few patterns they might be interested in sharing. There has been a bowtie project so I could hardly resist another pattern that could easily be traced repeatedly so KwikSew was a logical choice.

Along with the patterns I had to pop over to check out the fabric and came home with a small pile for only $10:
From the blue knit to the red/brown cotton, all good deals
The royal blue knit is two-way stretch so I see leggings in the future but it's also my favorite color, or at least everyone tells me I look great in royal blue. The tan and brown cottons were bought with the Block-of-the-Month project in mind but I don't think I will use them for it but they are still very nice fabrics. The reddish brown yardage is a Robert Kaufman and was only $5 for four yards: how could I pass that up?
Trying out the tan and brown as possible choices for the BOM project
Even if this spring blizzard does keep us from shopping on Saturday, I have already found some great bargains. My friends and I will miss getting together for it but we will not risk our lives during a known ice storm/blizzard just for a bargain. Well, that's what we say. Here's a final set of patterns that I just couldn't resist:

Men's shirt pattern from 1961, aprons not dated, and super hero from 1978
As it turns out, before I could even get this posted, the big, big sale was postponed until the next Saturday, April 21. That means my friends will not be able to go next weekend and I do not think I'll be able to either so I'm doubly glad I shopped after my volunteer time. Who know what I might have missed? I have to tell myself  "Walk away, just walk away..."

Monday, April 9, 2018

German Cranks

I'm not going to write about upset people who are from Germany but about my new hand crank sewing machine that is of German origin. It was a bit of an impulse buy, meaning I didn't need it, but I was following this auction and was the only bid. Isn't that always a bit upsetting? What does everyone else know that I don't? How big of a mistake did I just make? Shipping was quick and I found it to be in great shape:
Hengstenberg Hand Crank sewing machine
It even moved smoothly right out of the box so with a bit of oil it ran even better. Fairly clean, it was just a bit of cleaning spots that were missed by the seller. The wood case top was also in good shape so a session with Howard's Feed and Wax was all it took to get it looking good again:
Decals on the front with inlaid wood trim on top of the lid.
 There was only one flaw and it doesn't seem to be much of a deal breaker:
Hand crank knob with broken section
The ceramic knob on the crank handle was broken on one end and a trip to the local Ace Hardware did not find something we could use. They did show us ceiling fan pulls and that got us thinking: maybe we have one already? Indeed, we did so with a drill to hollow out the center we found a temporary solution:
Painted wood handle: needs more drilling to set the end tight
With it sewing well I was going to have to make something on it and my current project with a block-of-the-month quilt that I've been working on, this was going to be perfect. I've been using my Elna Stella, a cute portable 3/4 sized machine but I'm not totally happy with the end results on my piecing. It couldn't possibly be me and my lack of skill (!!!!!) so just maybe it is the sewing machine.


I did like piecing on the hand crank since I could go so slow and the seams were so short. Here's a sample of what I finished this weekend:
Pears: the lighter color pear fabric had to be totally replaced
Strawberry: I finished this one in the early morning hours
Cherries: I had to solicit more brown stem fabric due to cutting it wrong
You can see this has been quite the struggle. Yesterday I got the egg basket done but the bottom of the basket does not align correctly. This morning I finished it off, pressed it, and had to decide if I could live with it like it was. Not really so I checked to see if I had more fabric to remake that section and I found the extra I needed. That means I will be remaking that part. It doesn't look right and I don't want to show the other, better, quilters my glaring mistake. I'm not a perfectionist but I also have my pride. Here's my attempt to find the right color for the sashing:
One possible arrangement of the nine block quilt
I like the taupe color for the background so will try to find a shade similar from the selection at my local shops before I order online. It's pretty difficult to find correct shades online, just trusting the colors on your computer screen. All in all, this was a good experience for me to stretch myself in learning new skills, keep moving on a project, and to finally get to the end. Whew!

What is the score on using a hand crank for piecing? I really liked it! The machine is very nice, smooth stitches, easy to stop and start, and that reverse stitch would come in handy in other projects. I'll finish up the last block this week and then can put it away until our last quilt group meeting in May when we learn how to do the sashing. I might actually get this done before summer comes but with all of our snow this spring it looks like summer is never going to come. Know what that means? Sewing machine sales are up, up, up with everyone being forced to stay inside several more weeks. There is a silver lining to this dark cloud of winter/spring!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Surprise Packages

I'm not much of a surprise person, preferring to know what's coming up rather than having it sprung on me but once in awhile it can be nice. This busy weekend I had two or three nice surprises so read on.

Goodwill online is always a bit of a crap shoot since they do not stand behind what they offer and it is always "as is." My husband and I agreed we could take a chance on a Huskylock 905 serger  since it was only one cent for shipping. The only problem was it didn't work and only the light turned on but we figured maybe it could be fixed. What would be the worst? Electrical connection? Bad motor? Let's just see what we get. It shipped fast and I got it before the weekend, well packed, and seemingly with no damage:
Huskylock 905 serger
It even came with four cones of thread, all ready to sew. When plugged in, the light did turn on and what-did-you-know  it worked! I got to thinking about it and figured out that it was a somewhat newer model that had the safety feature of not running when the door was open. It also doesn't run when there is even a tiny hitch in the door that makes it look like it is closed but it needs an extra push or slide to seal that connection. They just didn't have the door shut all the way. Sweet surprise, and it stitches very nicely, too.

Natalie and I spent a morning together with a private lesson with her new-to-her Elna 9000, known as the Diva. It was fully loaded but no manual, just a workbook, and a notebook type of holder with zippered compartments of snap-on feet. Most were not Elna but there were photos and labels so we could figure out how they worked. It was a nice machine but computerized and a bit confusing if you have never had that type of sewing machine. We worked on the basic functions and then learned how to use the blind hem foot, narrow hemmer foot, and a blanket stitch. It was fun for me and helped Natalie put this machine to use instead of sitting in a box.

My next stop was to pick up a Bernina 1010, a very nice sewing machine that came with all of its bells and whistles and is in fine shape. Barb is a fine sewer with many machines so we had to have a bit of show-and-tell and, wouldn't you know it, I came home with a Bernette 334D serger. It does have its problems that I was hoping I could figure out but after much disassembly and reassembly it still hesitates on the startup. I hope I don't have to spring for a new power cord/foot control because they are a bit pricey for this model:
Bernette 334D serger
My daughter, Kelly, came over with fabric today that I picked out from photos she sent last week. We are all getting ready for the Textile Center Garage Sale on April 14 and she really purged this year but asked me first what I would like from her stash. Here's what arrived today:
Cotton fabric donation
That's 15 pieces of cotton prints I can make up into hot mitts, my best selling item at the craft fairs. Aren't they cute? I'm always energized by new fabric and these are nice quality and kitchen-y for your oven, stove, and microwave hot dishes. It's my hope I'll be able to resist buy too much at the sale when I already have new fabric at home. I can only hope.