Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bad Bernina Nova

Since I've been on a roll with Bernina's lately, I came across a deal for a Bernina Nova:
Bernina Nova with mustard colored accents
This model has intrigued me: smaller size, portable with built-in handle, wrap around case, all with the Bernina quality. How could I go wrong? Apparently, I do not learn from past mistakes because there are so many ways it could be unfixable and I just have not stumbled upon them...yet. But cute is cute and a deal was struck and it arrived. Once cleaned up and running I could see that it had great potential but there must be something wrong with the foot control because it was full speed ahead only. I took it apart to check and clean but it looked pretty normal even if it was a bit funky looking:
Bernina Nova foot control: funny hat style?
It reminded me of the Elna's with a bladder inside but it is not like that at all just different looking. I did more research and found a possible answer on the Bernina Facebook group. There is an electronic board inside with connections that are known to go bad over time. I looked at mine and although there was black residue it was hard to tell if it had gone bad:
Circuit board in place before repair: looks okay to me!
All was not lost because there was someone in Utah who repairs or replaces them for a reasonable charge. I got in touch with Neal, sent photos, and decided I needed to send my board to him. Then began the process of removal:
Connections to the motor
Tiny frail parts that nearly broke off
Black gunk where the board sits: this doesn't look good
Other side of board once removed
I took photos because I feared I wasn't going to be able to put it back together again! It took only a week or so and Neal confirmed it was done and sent it back once I paid for the repair plus shipping. It arrived and I pulled up those photos and reassembled it. Even with the photos it was difficult to figure out but I put it all back to the best of my ability, plugged in the machine and gingerly tried the foot control....and it worked! No more racing foot control, stitches were perfect, and we have a winner!

This was such a relief since a good machine like this deserves to be used and even electronics can sometimes be repaired. It would be a nice skill to learn but, for now, I am very satisfied to send parts out for repair. I titled this post "Bad Bernina Nova" but the model itself is not bad, just the circuit board went bad. With Neal's expert help, it is now fully healed and looking for a new home. That's a win-win in my book. Here's a peek at the carrying case:
Portable case with handle from machine showing
Inside case: extra presser feet and other accessories
That's portable! Although not really heavy like the Bernina Record models, it is portable with the handle but still not lightweight. An excellent sewing machine and as good as new so I am very satisfied. How about you? Do you have a Bernina success story to share? I would love to hear it!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

It's Golden

Putting all of these sewing machines to use can sometimes be a challenge. I did manage to rescue some flour-sack type of towels from the Goodwill Outlet a few weeks ago but it was a mixed blessing. They came out of the dryer in such a wrinkled mess that I feared they were going to have to go to the rag pile. Deciding to see if they could be made useful, I pressed four of them only to find out the selvedge edge would get all stretched out. I tried hemming one of them and it just looked all distorted. I put it aside to give it some thinking time and came back to it with the following save: why not cut off the distorted part and hem again with a trimmed edge? I figured the trimmed edge would give it the weight it needed to keep it straight and true. Here's how it turned out:
Flour sack towels trimmed, using Franklin treadle

Which sewing machine did I use? The Franklin treadle I wrote about in Another Brother. I still have four more flour sack towels and this time I'm going to try to use rickrack trim, interwoven to give it a different look.
Flour sack towels trimmed with rickrack using New Home treadle
In another sewing project, I needed a jacket/coverup to go with a dress I planned to wear to a wedding. Actually, we had two weddings in one weekend so there was a parade of fashions and photos sent to sisters and daughters before the right outfits were settled on. A dark blue satin sheath dress with gold high heels really needed something....besides jewelry. I picked out some gold sparkly fabric that also was a stretch knit. At half price it was only $8 for the light weight jacket and an easy pattern, too. Using a serger would make it go quickly but I feared it was going to be scratchy with those exposed edges around my neck and on the inside of my arms. To the rescue: use organza bias strips to line the seams!
Organza bias strips over seams

It seemed like a good idea but wasn't as easy as it sounds. It was slippery stuff that didn't want to press flat but it finally was done:

Gold Jacket: McCalls 6084
It did the job by not showing too much and the jacket was not at all itchy. Success!
Happy Uncle Jim and Aunt Karen at the wedding dinner

Friday, May 18, 2018

Another Brother

Ah, Brother Select-O-Matics have stolen my heart...again. You are right if you are thinking I had quite a few of this model, even keeping the best-condition model, and I continue to buy, restore, and sell this beloved sewing machine. Another one came up for sale and it is now sitting in my garage, waiting for a cleaning and small amount of repair on the cabinet. Judy introduced me to a beautiful Brother cabinet that she guessed had been used by a dealer as a special promotion. And now I have a cabinet with the same Brother decal:
Brother decal, probably a promotion item
My cabinet does not have the convertible treadle to electric function but it is still a fine piece with an excellent sewing machine:
Brother Select-O-Matic
This one even came with a set of attachments and another box with even more parts that belong to a couple other sewing machines but I took all of it in hopes of using it someday. The cabinet does pose a few problems: chipped veneer and a stain on the top. There is a fairly glossy finish on this veneer so not sure how to restore and what can I do about the chips? It sounds like it is time to take it to Woodcraft in Bloomington , MN to see what they can do to help restore those chips. It's possible the top with the ring stain can be restored with Howard's Restore-A-Finish but I will need to buy a new bottle with that very blond shade. Before I purchase anything I think a trip to Woodcraft would either confirm that decision of lead me down a better path.
Brother Select-O-Matic in open cabinet

Brother Select-O-Matic in closed cabinet
On the search for another convertible treadle cabinet, I have actually found one! You have to be diligent when searching and this time it paid off. Here's my tip: click on every photo because what might seem like a photo of a sewing machine head you are not interested in reveals a cabinet you are dying for.So excited, we went a day early to pick it up:
Convertible treadle cabinet?
That's when we found out it wasn't convertible after all. What a huge disappointment! I still bought it and brought it home, working to get it limbered up and clean.
Franklin Rotary ready to treadle
 This is one of the sewing machines that runs backwards from Singer: you push the handwheel away from you instead of towards you. It does have all of the treadle mechanism hidden away:
Behind that door is the big wheel and shelves

that can be closed to keep little hands away.
It's still going to be a nice treadle and in good shape once I refinish the cabinet. Since most of the finish is already gone and the lines are pretty clean and simple it will be fairly easy to make it look beautiful again. I already had a set of attachments and bobbins in excellent condition so now it will be complete.
Franklin Rotary in treadle cabinet (before refinishing)
I'm still on the hunt for one of those convertible treadles and I'm confident I will find one ... some day. Patience is a virtue, I hear.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Treadle Abundance

Right now I have five treadle cabinets with machines in all but one. When it rains it pours! It all started late last fall when my neighbor had his mother's Wheeler & Wilson 9 up for sale. I managed to store it in the garage over winter, not a good idea, but it was in pretty rough shape. It is still in rough shape and I'm just not ready to deal with the cabinet problems as well as getting the bobbin to work so it will continue to wait for me.
Wheeler & Wilson #9
Next up was the adorable New Home in a compact parlor cabinet. It's one of those petite 3/4 sized machines but it also had to wait in the garage over winter. I've been working on cleaning it up, the cabinet and the machine, and think it's in pretty good shape. The threading is different with the top tension unit besides being a vibrating shuttle model.  I continue to struggle with setting the boat shuttle in the vibrating swing arm but practice makes perfect.
New Home treadle cabinet

New Home treadle cabinet open

New Home treadle: bobbin winder out for cleaning
 I got the two parlor cabinets without machines and they are now all cleaned up and working as noted in Whiplash. I have enjoyed showing them off, especially after I got the Davis treadle. It was an adventure after winning the local auction and picking it up by myself. It's not a big treadle and I figured since it would come apart into at least three sections and I would be okay to disassemble and haul it. It was easier said than done. The head came out easily but the wood cabinet was not all one piece but at least three pieces with the side drawers coming off first. My screwdriver was too long so that was a struggle and even to find the screws when it was so sunny outside and so dark under that cabinet! With the drawer sections removed I was now ready to take off the top, but not until I removed the large shield held on by three screws on each side. One of the screws just turned and turned so it had to be carefully coaxed out. Now the top could be unscrewed from the irons, held on by only four screws. It all fit into the back of the Jeep and made it home safely. With all of those pieces all over the floor of the garage I wanted to get it back together again but it was not obvious how it would all work. My husband helped me in this part but it was a struggle. Let's just say it is all back together and we are still married. It got cleaned up with Howard's Feed & Wax on the wood with Johnson's paste wax on the irons after a scrubdown. It got posted on Facebook Marketplace with a half dozen people interested and only one needed to show up to pick up.
Davis treadle cabinet

Davis treadle top
It was crazy how many people were interested in this cabinet that was far from perfect and contained no sewing machine. I finally broke down and asked one person why they wanted a treadle and they said it was for their TV. Is that all? No, she learned to sew on a treadle with her grandma and it would bring back fond memories. I said I would keep her in mind if I found another one...cheap.

As a final bit of eye candy, here is the Davis in her new cabinet. She is not only pretty, she runs like a dream. I think it was worth the struggle!
Davis in new cabinet: a real beauty!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Life as a Cat

My cat, Meg
My cat is the ultimate free-loader, taking up space, making demands, and giving almost nothing in return. That's not entirely true since she does sit on our laps and purrs quite loudly but despite those few things she gives in return for food and shelter, we love her anyway. We appreciate her so much that we bought her a cozy shelter last winter to give her a space to call her own and to help keep her warmer. It was such a big hit that I decided to try my hand at making one for her myself. Since I already had a prototype, I read up on how others were made and assembled the materials for mine. I had some of the very soft minky-type of fleece so I looked for some fabric I could pair with it and settled on a pink I wasn't going to use anywhere else. What could I use to give it enough firmness and structural support? A foam mattress topper, the egg crate type, was purchased at a garage sale (a used mattress topped? Ewe, but I don't have to sleep on it!), and we were ready to go.

I made up 14" panels that were similar to pillow cases, making it easy with a serger. I had the Huskylock 905 out with a substitute power cord/foot control. This was a dandy serger I wrote about in Surprise Packages, noting it didn't work because the door might not have been closed completely. That wasn't exactly true since it also misbehaved for me and I finally found a substitute cord/foot control and it worked just fine. I ordered a new one, confident that was the problem but sewed up this project with the borrowed cord set. All six of the sides were made and I was sewing them together when I realized I hadn't made the one with a hole for the cat to climb into!
Panels with foam inside
I still had fabric left so I made up that one, too, and proceeded to sew them together. To make it even easier, next time I'll make them up without the foam, just inserting it when I need to.
Cat bed "door" opening

Panels sewn together on sides
Which sewing machine did I use for this fun project? A new Pfaff 1221 came my way at a great price, ready to sew with only a little cleaning needed. The IDT on the Pfaff models was great at keeping the fabrics together so there was less creeping forward of the fabric.
Pfaff 1221
 I put the raw edges together at the top where the cat wasn't going to sleeping but it really turned out very smooth and finished inside:
Raw edges at the top or roof

Cat bed all sewn together, inside

This is just wheat this princess needs: another house to hide away in. Maybe it will be her summer house since it is so brightly colored, a bit Caribbean, no?
Finished cat bed exterior

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


In my last post I discussed a new industrial walking foot sewing machine and this post is about a very old treadle sewing machine, mainly about the beautiful cabinet. I call that whiplash as we jump centuries in these two back to back posts. That is how it is with vintage sewing machines: sometimes it is all about power and other times it's about not using power. Here's the beauty I want to show you today:
Singer parlor cabinet before cleaning
I have written about treadle parlor cabinets before since I have owned quite a few and continue to love them and this one was no exception. The quality of the cabinet and the overall condition made this an easy purchase. Cleaning it up with a bucket of water and Murphy's Oil Soap was necessary, especially the metal works that had some sort of a white residue. Next I used my faithful Howard's Feed & Wax, a polish and wood conditioner that does wonders. There was a dark ring on the top leaf but it cleaned up pretty good: it's still there but much less noticeable. With all of the little wood carvings added onto the doors, including the door pulls themselves, I used an old toothbrush to work the wax into the crevices.

So much storage! So many places to clean!
Like most old wood furniture, it was very dry and just needed to get lubricated again and it was worth the effort.
Snger parlor cabinet clean and waxed
It came without a sewing machine so I took a look at my stock and found a Singer 66, Red Eye decals, that only needed to have a few parts added. I must have stripped parts off for another machine but it now has the handwheel back and the bobbin cover slide plate and spring functioning again. I still need to take the leather treadle belt off and make adjustments for the different machine in the cabinet and then she will be ready to show (or show off).
Singer parlor cabinet with Singer 66 Red Eye treadle
This came via Craigslist and when I saw the location I had to chuckle: could this be the same person I also got another parlor cabinet from? Gary confirmed he was the same one who sold me another cabinet. This time he not only delivered, as before, but brought both parlor cabinets he advertised. He was more than happy to meet up again and we had a nice conversation about treadles and industrial sewing machines. I continue to say I meet the nicest people in my sewing machine business. Here's the second cabinet he brought over:
Before cleaning and oh so nice!
Isn't it about perfect? I also cleaned it up with Murphy's and Howard's Feed & Wax but still have some work to do on it. It is such an interesting cabinet with the entire top with rails and felt flips open. There are small pull out drawers in the top of the doors and another set of larger drawers hidden inside. This takes a smaller head than a typical Singer, a Davis or Minnesota and I have neither. I tried a smaller New Home but it wasn't quite right but, never fear, Goodwill auction is here! I'm picking up a Davis machine in a treadle and I hope it is the right one. If I can't switch them out the Davis is still a wonderful machine and possibly a decent cabinet. When I have it all together I can post a final photo. I am very excited to have such an unusual cabinet in near perfect condition.

Does anyone know the name of either of these cabinets? I would love to know!