Thursday, July 30, 2020

Tailor Made

I keep learning about different models and their variations and today's post is about the Singer 201-2/1200 sewing machine. I love, love, love the Singer 201-2 and have bought and sold many of this model. How do I love thee, o' Singer 201? Let me count the ways: potted motor, all metal gears, no belt, front light, large harp, drop-in bobbin, stands on a table without a case, beautiful stitch, strong and powerful, and just a classic sewing machine. I found another one in an industrial type table for an excellent price so my husband and I dashed over to buy it. The owner, a young man, told the story of it being in the family for decades and how it was even brought over from the east coast because they just had to have it here in Minnesota. Now it was being sold because it was just too big and didn't fit their needs so I was happy to take it off their hands. It was large but the head came out easily even if I did have to disconnect a couple wires.

Once in my garage I checked it over, decided it was safe to run, just very dirty, and she was great. There were no decals left on the bed of the machine but a strip of white tape that left a nasty mark. What was the goofy industrial table about and the treadle peddle as a foot control?
It's not a treadle peddle misplaced: it's a foot control

While cleaning up I noticed the model number: 1200. This was not a Singer 201-2 even though it looked identical to one except for the mechanism on the back that I recognized as a presser foot lifter.
If you see this, you have the capability to raise
the presser foot with a knee lever.

Out to the internet for research, I found out the Singer 1200 was indeed just like the 201-2 but it was made for tailor shops. It is not an industrial, meant to run all day, but had the large table, wide foot control, and presser foot lift as a professional shop would certainly appreciate. Even the lack of decals was intentional since they would be worn off with use anyway. I realized I had found a gem so now I needed to bring her back to her former glory.
Singer 1200 in original table, restored

Cleaning first with sewing machine oil and lots of wiping, I followed up with Go-Jo, non-pumice formula, and then some buffing. There were so many small places with the bobbin winder and around the potted motor sticking off the back but she was finally declared clean enough.
All gussied up and no where to go

How about that table? I'm sorry I didn't take a photo of it before refinishing but it was the usual butcher block slab of wood that had seen better days with letters scratched into it and most of the finish rubbed off anyway. I wanted to preserve the ruler decal but the wood color around it was not the light tone of the rest of the table top but brown so brown it was going to be. Sanding like crazy took the finish off as well as the initials so just a coat of stain and three coats of sealer and she's ready to be used. The presser foot knee lifter was missing some parts so I found a long bolt that could double as a paddle to push against; it's not beautiful just functional.
Presser foot lift knee bar substitute

While I was cleaning I noticed the thumb screw that would drop the feed dogs so I could use it for free motion quilting. I have only had success with a sewing machine that I could use the automatic start/stop feature so it would keep a steady pace and I could concentrate on moving my hands with the quilt. Maybe the 1200 would work better for me so I found a free motion/darning foot, a quilt sandwich for practice, and gave it a go:
Free motion on the Singer 1200

It worked! Maybe it was because of the larger foot control and steady pace, maybe it was my hours of free motion quilting I already had, but it worked for me now. I am thrilled! But (there's always a but, isn't there?) this machine is out in the garage and is not coming in the house so that leaves me with the dilemma of how I will keep a quilt clean if I bring it out to the garage for quilting. I could lay a sheet down on the floor and I have plenty of them in a rag pile in the garage (neatly folded as future drop cloths, mind you), or I could wash the floor. That's the better idea but so much work to get things moved over to one side, power wash, scrub with mild detergent, power wash again, dry for several days, move things back, do the second half, and then I could consider the floor clean (I still might lay down a sheet). I get tired just reading that set of steps let alone doing them but now that I'm retired I have all the time in the world to do it. Not this week since I'm having cataract surgery and have to lay low, but in another ten days - maybe. I'll post photos of the very clean garage when it gets done (see, this is motivation since I put it in print).

All of this is in celebration of finding a Singer 1200 in her fantastic table that just invites a larger quilt for free motion quilting. I can almost hear it calling me from the garage...

Sunday, July 26, 2020


Many times I have enjoyed the generosity of friends and this post is about one of them. Deb and I met when she came to a sewing machine class I taught at a community center. Full of enthusiasm and patience, she brought her teenage daughter along, too, so they could sew together. Sometimes teenage daughters aren't as loving as they should be but Deb was wonderful, not saying too much and stepping back when needed. By the end of class her daughter was laughing and enjoying her new skills: maybe mom wasn't so dumb after all! Deb and I kept in touch a bit but when I got an email from her this spring I was blown away: she had several sewing machines she wanted to give away and would I like them? Of course I would so we arranged a time, put on masks and gloves, and unloaded her trunk:

Portable Models

Fleetwood Deluxe in table
I've been working on them and by now they all in working order and ready for sale. First up is the Brother with red trim:
Brother VX-1010
I've had a few like this before so all it needed was a cleaning and adjustment. It came without the storage compartment but I had one that almost fit. I could finagle it into place but it needed a rubber band to hold it there; not ideal but it worked. It's a good starter sewing machine.

Next up is a Singer 538. I kept her hidden because I knew there was going to be a bit of trouble with this one and I was right: upon turning the handwheel I could hear a crunch. That's never a good sign so I opened it up to find out two of four gears just fell apart. I ordered a new set, replaced another one, and now just need to settle in and get that job done. Another nice beginner's sewing machine.

The Riccar was another good machine that only needed some cleaning up:
Riccar RZ-208B
Another good strong sewing machine with straight and zigzag stitches. I have a couple men in mind for this one.

Then there is a blue Universal, another good machine that needs to be babied a bit: even after many adjustments you still need to give the beginning stitches an encouragement by moving the handwheel to get going:
This one went out as a loner while their machine was in the shop and we were all frantically sewing masks. It was returned, never needing to be used after all. All in all, a clean machine with a good variety of stitches.

I'm saving my joy for the Kenmore 385-1950280, a machine I was familiar with since I had one years ago. The first one needed a foot control and it was a very different type so was expensive. I got it anyway only to discover there was another bigger problem with the machine so it went to parts. When Deb brought this one and apologized for the missing foot control I told her I was pretty sure I already had one. Isn't it amazing how we recall our failures with such clarity? Sure enough, same model, still had that foot control set and she was up and humming:
Kenmore 385-1950280
And finally, the Fleetwood Deluxe, a table model that was just too swanky to resist. After a cleaning and adjustment, the table needed refreshing and that's when I noticed the cord set was full of exposed wires.  After several attempts to install a safer knee control, it's finally done:

Stradivario cabinet

One of the knobs on the front of the Stradivario cabinet was missing so I had to replace all three with wood knobs but they look okay in the end. She runs quiet and smooth and will be a great addition to someone's home. I love the "fins" on this one!
Ready for cruisin' with these fins

Now I have them all up to speed and ready to sell; while I was still working outside the home (although with COVID19 we were working from home) this just took too long to do. It's my hope to speed up this repair process and get more done but not until I have cataracts removed in the coming week. At that time I will be officially retired, vision restored, rested up from a week of sitting around, and ready to, at least, sew again. A big thanks to Deb for her contribution of projects that will be sold reasonably to deserving souls. Then I can say "let the quilting begin!" as I get back to what I love to do (besides repairing sewing machines).

Saturday, July 18, 2020

It's for your money, honey.

At Christmas time, my church has a craft and bake sale on the Sunday of the children's program so this is a time for me to give back. In the past, I've donated items from my craft sale booth and slippers I have knit up just for the church sale. A couple years ago I bought a wallet made by our church secretary, Teri, that I have grown to love. Although I keep telling myself I can make up a wallet myself I never seem to get around to it. To purchase one from Teri to benefit our children and women's programs seemed like a good idea. By now I have worn it out and finally spilled something on it that did not wash out. No more excuses, I'm going to make my own!

There are so many patterns for wallets, it was hard to decide but I came upon one that had so many card slots it seemed perfect. In case you would like to try this, it's the So Sew Easy Ultimate Wallet.  I wanted the fabric to be cute but also sturdy, not necessarily washable, but maybe cleanupable (you heard that word here first). Although I didn't take photos along the way, here's how it turned out:
Opening for paper money only goes as deep as a dollar bill

Center zippered coin/change compartment

Red dot fabric for coin purse has card slots on both sides

Both sides of coin purse have slots as well as left and right sides

Closed with large flap

I haven't added the magnetic closure to the outside flap yet and not sure it needs it. Inside, under the print fabric of ladies shoes, there are compartments for anything else that's not card size. I found out I don't have enough cards for all of the slots, quite a shock since it always seemed to be a problem. If I made it again, and I just might, I don't think I would add all of the card slots on the coin purse as it does make the whole thing fatter. In using it I found it was firmer than my "Teri Wallet" but I'm overwhelmed with all of the card slots and can't always find what I'm looking for! With 28 card slots that's a lot of cards but I'm thinking I will settle into it.

Which sewing machine did I use? My Husqvarna Viking Designer 1 for most of it and the really thick parts I have my Singer 31-15 as back up. As the commercial says "What's in your wallet?"

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Sew and So

Ah, my blog reading friends, I have neglected you. I think of you and write loving messages in my head but they can't seem to get onto the computer for me to share. Today is catch-up day and hopes for a more prolific blog writing future ahead of me.

I have been sewing! Men's shirts, women's dresses, tank tops, and all kinds of things in between. It's also that time of year when the cars are out of the garage and it's starting to fill with cabinets. Due to the hot weather we have been having, I have been happy to stay in the basement where it is cool and my sewing room is all ready for me. Since it has been so hot I have found myself in need to a few new tops to keep cool so I looked through my fabric and patterns to come up with some combinations I would like to try and, hopefully, wear. Up first is a dress pattern from my daughter, Kelly, and I even have the dress she made from it. I absolutely love the dress because it's so simple and the fabric feels so lush. There was a rather dull blue knit I was hoping to use, and enough of it, but it was just a bit too thin to make a dress. How could I make it a bit heavier so there would drape better? How about a thin lining: with a knit this can be tricky so as I checked over my fabrics I found a knit filmy kind of fabric that wouldn't be good for much else. I used it as an interlining, matching it up to the outer fabric and treating it as one piece.
Inside showing knit lining

It went together beautifully but it wasn't going to be as comfortable in the summer heat as a single layer. Loved the look and figured it would be a nice casual summer dress:

McCalls 6074
With one success behind me, I decided to use a cute KwikSew 3225 pattern I've been admiring. Checking there were several who made it up and suggested the top was cut too low under the arm and the top was "baggy". I had several fabric to try this on and just barely fit the pieces on a pink knit: perfect since I had no idea what else I would make with this fabric. It was a bit confusing and I ended up sewing the lies onto the front section instead of the back but I could reverse that and muttle along:
Dress folded down with ties coming to the front

front of dress to show how back folds down

Dress assembled

See what I mean? The back of the dress folds down and ties in the front. I cut the bodice in a size small and then added an inch or so to the underarm section to avoid the problems others had. It worked! The skirt I left as a medium so, all in all, it turned out cute, very comfortable due to the soft knit, so I decided I would make it again. This time I'm using a puckered/seersucker gingham in red and white. Photos may be coming soon!

Which sewing machines did I use? For both of them I used a serger as much as I could, dragging out a Pfaff for the coverstitch hem. Then I found a Huskylock 936 serger, one of the all-time classic models that has gotten rave reviews. It was all set up for coverstitch and I did get it to work with much work and help from the Facebook group. Since it came with no accessories that means it also didn't have a regular presser foot or needle plate so I'll have to cough up for those if it's to be used as a regular serger, too. I've made an agreement with myself: if it makes a more consistent coverstitch I will sell the Pfaff and keep the Huskylock. That's a big "if" for me!

So I'm also wondering why I'm making dresses since I'm working from home but sometimes it's just fun to have a new summer dress. Besides, at the end of July I will officially retire from my job as a librarian. That's right, it's quite official, July 24 is my last day of work and the following week, while still employed, I'm having cataract surgery on both eyes, first the right and 4 days later the left. That's all to warn you that I won't be doing much of anything for a week or more but I won't need glasses when I'm done and should see much clearer.

And did you read that correctly? I WILL BE RETIRED STARTING AUGUST 1. Not too excited,can you tell? but just ready to spend more time with my sewing machines and you, my blog friends.
Hey, hey! New dress, new life!

Sunday, June 7, 2020


I am such a cheapskate but sometimes it turns out for the better. Take my latest quilt project where I'm using up grandmas' flower garden motifs from my aunt. I added some of my own to use up the last of her quilting projects. Looking at how others have used these patterns into quilts I didn't want to do the usual arrangement. Playing around with them I came up with the following ideas:
In this case I could try to arrange from light to dark hues. Maybe, but it would take a whole lot of these little buggers.
Here's another idea, adding them to white background, adding sashing to extend the size. Getting better.
Now I added a cream layer to each one and then added the green triangles in the created corners for a square block. With the navy pindot background I was giving this a big thumbs up.
But then I continued with that thought and placed them in groups of four with navy pindot sashing. Then I could extend the size with another set of wider sashing between each larger block. With three large blocks across and down I would need 36 of the smaller circles. I had 29 so I kept up my hand sewing until I had enough, adding the green triangles as I finished each one so when I was done I was really done.
Here's the arrangement before sewing them together as large blocks. I only messed up one set (and I'm not telling).
Each set got numbered
and sewn together (above is without borders, below is with borders)
until the top was finally done. The borders were different for me with the corner blocks alternating blue and green and I really like that touch. Here's where the cheapskate comes into play. I didn't have enough fabric for the backing and at 84" square it was going to take five yards. Now, this was a scrappy quilt and no way was I now going to spend $30 on backing. My daughter suggested I piece the backing so I rummaged around until I found enough fabric and came up with this idea:
The blue background fabric was the largest piece and used for the border on the front, the dark green fabric was good sized, too, but there was a flaw in it, some white streaks, so I needed to add something to cover that up. The multi fabric border was a fun part where I sewed strips of fabric from the front  together and then cut in 1.5" strips. When it was done and pressed I laid it down and put the quilt top over it: not quite big enough on one side. At that point I had to walk away and rethink this. I showed my husband an hour later and discovered if I turned the top around it did fit better. Whew! Now I just need to add the batting and get it quilted, one of my favorite parts. This one is so big it's going to take awhile!

Still selling a few sewing machines and some repairs I would rather not dwell on, but with people returning to work and the weather getting nicer I know this isn't the season for sewing except for those of us who are just a little bit obsessed (confession is good for the soul).

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

I've enjoyed digging into my stack of future projects and getting them done during this time of staying at home so, next up, was a bundle of fabric with cut squares and strips. First Quilters had a fabric sale a few summers ago and this zippered plastic bag looked cheerful to me so I bought it for only $3. Looking at the potential, patterns for half square triangles, sending photos to my quilting sister, Jane, I came up with this plan/idea:
Bag of fabric sorted and labeled to make sure there was enough???
Block design
It didn't take long to piece these blocks and I decided to use my treadle this time. Why? Why not? It gave me some much needed practice time and made it more fun, too. There wasn't quite enough fabric for all of the edges as well as one final block but all I could do was punt:
Bottom right corner: oh oh, not enough!
 So I had to mix things up just a bit and came up with this (see if you can find the pattern variation):
Final product: even the binding is done
I love the bright floral print but it was very bold so when it came time to free motion quilt it I needed to find patterns that would actually show off the fabric. Here's some of my experimentation:
Different designs on each fabric
Script? I can now sew words!
Using the Singer Futura XL400, I sewed each section with a different design with large flower type design in each gold square, lines of loops in the half square triangles, and even a feather type of stitch on the border. Some of the places were not-so-great so I removed stitches and tried again so the final product was something I was proud of. I decided to give this quilt to my younger sister, Mindy, who loved my last quilt and even asked if it was for sale. This one was just for her so I wrote messages in the border and in various places on the quilt. I don't think she has found them all yet but I'm patient, she will find them one by one and I'll hear all about it.

Along with quilt projects, I also was inspired to make something with all of the hankies I've collected. Not only were mine stashed in a box, I now have my mom's and aunt's collections so it seemed like a huge pile. I also had a stack of linen placemats and napkins that were just too cute to pass up at the Goodwill Outlet so putting them all together:
Hankie and linen arrangement
I sewed them on a large piece of white muslin, added buttonholes at the top, hemmed, and she's now on display on my shower:
Hankie shower curtain from doorway
Hankie shower curtain
I'm so glad I put these lovely items to use; they weren't going anywhere in a hankie box so I might as well enjoy them every day! Speaking of showers, I better wrap this up and get a shower before the online church service starts. No one can see me but old habits die hard and I like to clean up before church and that hankie shower curtain waits for me. Until next time, what are you sewing on?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

More Than One

As we continue to stay at home in Minnesota and I've sold out most of my basic sewing machines, I've been able to move things around in my sewing area. How nice to have most of the machines out of the family room and into the sewing room! In the process, I found some Singer 503's, 403's, and even a surprise 401. I had been ignoring the Singer 503 because I was sure it had problems but now I take a look:
Singer 503 with former repair note?
Nothing wrong and it even comes with a full set of accessories. This model doesn't have a built in zigzag stitch so you need cam 0, that's zero, to have a basic zigzag. My model had this cam and was ready to sell but then I found another 503 but no zero cam. The Singer 403 is similar, in that it also needs a cam for zigzag so I pull it off the back shelf to find it also has the cam and a full set of accessories. Checking all of my cams and then checking machines it appears I'm short one zero cam. In need of  the popup spool pins for the 503, I place an order but not for the cam because I'm not giving up yet.
Singer 503 top open: new spool pins!

A few more days go by and I take another look at the 403 and 503 but what do I find? The Singer 403 is a 401. What? They are very different machines and I know the difference: the 401 has a camstack so there's a whole host of built in stitches plus cams. The 403 has no built in stitches, just straight, so you need cams for any decorative work or even a blind hem. But there is sits, a 401 and looking into the top door I find the beloved zero cam that it does not need since it has built-in zigzag stitches. Now my 503 is ready for a new home and I have a 401 ready, too.

April is a big birthday month around here with four grandchildren having birthdays (10, 8, 5, and 1) as well as my husband. This has posed challenges but for the youngest she got a couple summer outfits made by her grandma:
Summer top with leggings, size 1

Playset with shorts or crop pants, size 1/2
They were so much fun and took me back to when I made something similar for her mom. Which sewing machine did I use? My Viking Designer 1 performed just fine but I'm becoming a bit disillusioned by it from time to time. I made up some new placemats for the small table we use for most summer meals out on the porch. Using only two pieces of fabric with a heavy interfacing, the top stitching looks really poor. Looking around the room and trying to decide which machine I should try next, there sat the Singer 31-15, an industrial model I have sitting in the table with a servo motor for the Bernina 318. I thread it up with some form of heavier top stitching thread and it comes out just fine.
Placmats with pocket for flatware
Placemats with heavy interfacing
This is another reason why you need more than one sewing machine! Next up: quilting more UFO's and free motion success!