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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Quick Question for my engineer daughter


I'm restoring a vintage electrical appliance, sort of a proto-CrockPot from the 1940s.

It was very clean inside and the wiring looks shiny.  But there is a loose wire hanging which I am almost certain I broke in the dis-assembly process.

so,  just checking in for your expertise

There is the usual two-hole electrical cord.  The device has THREE prongs though.  You put the cord on the left two plugs for the low setting and the right two plugs for high.
No photos of the outside.

This is inside

Reading from left to right

  • 1.  skinny wire attached to first post
  • 2.  fat wire attached to the middle post
  • 3.  fat wire attached to the last post
  • 4.  skinny wire not attached to anything however there was a broken piece of skinny wire still attached to the middle post.

Although the answer DOES seem blindingly obvious, it is SO reassuring to be able to ask you.  Not to mention my continuing quest to get my money's worth out of your engineering degree.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Singer 99 conversion to hand crank, bobbin winder option.

I won a nice little Singer 99 in the raffle at the NC TOGA last June.  Afterwards Maria told me that she had donated it.  Thanks, Maria!

She had obviously spent some time cleaning it up and there was very little left for me to do.  It needed a new bobbin cover slide plate, and I had one in the stash.

Note:  I wrote a tutorial for hand crank conversion back in 2012 so take a look if you want more details about the process.

screwdriver points to location of missing screw

It also needed an attachment screw for the bobbin winder.  But this proved to be a blessing in disguise.

One of the problems of converting machines to hand crank status is whether the bobbin winder will work once the conversion is finished.

You have to replace the original solid hand wheel on the 99 and the 185 with a spoked wheel.  The hand crank has a finger that fits into the space between the spokes.

The spoked wheel is a different diameter than the solid wheel and this leaves the bobbin winder dangling in mid-air with no place to land.  But with this screw missing you can just push the winder into position to make contact with the spoked hand wheel.

I didn't invent this, btw.  I am sure I read this somewhere, probably on TreadleOn, possibly from Maria!  But I had forgotten about it until I started playing around with this machine.

Beautiful nose plate and nice and clean inside the nose.  "Nose" is what I call it because I never remember what it is really supposed to be called.

Nice and clean underneath.

Ditto for the bobbin area. There is a bit of rust (not nearly as bad as the photo shows) but everything turns freely.  It just needed a replacement bit of felt tucked into that little spring on the side.  Oil goes on the felt, and then a thin film of oil is continuously added to the bobbin race as it races around the track.

The original felt inside the little spring thingy was a red wool felt.  You can cut a piece the right size off of a red spool pin felt and use that.  The spool pin felts I have bought from are wool.  If you get them elsewhere I can't promise their wool-ness.

It is easier than you might think to dis- and re-assemble the bobbin area of the Singer 99 and its big sister the 66.  I found thorough directions with photos at the Tools for Self Reliance website.
They cover all aspects of refurbishing the 99, 16, 15 and 201.  The vintage sewing machine world is in a blind panic now because they have taken the directions off of their website.  Apparently there is a way to travel back in time (internet-wise) to retrieve them.  I have them downloaded fortunately.  People have been writing to them asking them to restore the directions.  So far no go though.

This is the Singer 99 that eventually became Nellie's pink machine.  I can never get enough pictures of it, how about you?

I probably started writing this post a year ago or more!  The machine has long been finished and delivered to little Nellie.  But the info about the bobbin winder "adjustment" is important and the fix is so easy that I knew I really had to get this posted eventually.  So here it is.

Enjoy the advent of Spring (or Fall if you are in the southern hemisphere.  Or the rainy season if you are in the tropics and waiting for it).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Paper Towel Holders and a Not-Vintage Pfaff

As mentioned here before (and often) I am a thrift store junkie.  It is just so much fun to look at all the old trash treasures.

One of my all time great finds was a cast iron paper towel holder, enameled pink.  It has a finial at the top that has holes in it.  I realized its potential immediately.

It was designed so that you can unscrew the finial, pop a roll of paper towels on, and replace the finial.  The finial keeps the paper towels from leaping up off of the post and escaping.  Like they do.

The smaller post on the side is designed to keep the paper towels under control.  But you can also put a cone of thread on it, and run the thread up through the finial.  Cutest thread stand EVER.

Uh, well, at least until the one shown below came along.  And dear readers, it was many, many years between the discovery of the pink one and the arrival of this lovely.  So don't expect to pop into your local charity shop and just pick one up.

It is wood rather than cast iron, but is performing well.  It is marked "Fiesta" on the bottom and yes, that is an adorable Fiesta-looking teapot on top of the finial.  The thread feeds through the handle of the teapot.

This is the official microwave quilting station.  Literally two steps around the corner from the microwave.  During the couple of minutes it takes for leftovers to heat up I can get a tidy amount of chain piecing done.  And that is my favorite quilt-block-piecing-machine, a made-by-Toyota 15 clone.

Ignore that silly green thing in the middle.  It was supposed to be a thread stand and it came from an online sewing supplies store (NOT Jenny).  It was an un-usable piece of junk.  I would say that it fell apart except for the fact that it was never together and it was physically impossible to put it together and have it stay together.  So I used JB Weld, and modeled it on the paper towel holder.  WRONG.  The little post for the thread was supposed to be in the middle, with the thread guide on the side.  It worked though.  I have given it away since acquiring the Fiesta teapot one.

The pink one lives down in the studio with my latest wild passionate love interest (I'm the passionate one.  I don't think the Pfaff really feels any emotion).

Introducing:  Pfaff Creative 7510

Here's what exhaustive research 5 minutes of Googling tells me about this machine.  Made in 1994 (or thereabouts, I'm doing this from my unreliable memory now), and one of the last models made in Germany.  Extremely well reviewed.  I haven't discovered what it cost when new--leave a comment if you know.  But the day I bought it I discovered two different online sewing machine stores that were selling them for $1200.  $1200.  Right now.

So what did I pay for it, you are dying to know, right?


Five US dollars.  With the original manual and a set of presser feet.

It was sitting on the floor of one of my favorite charity shops.  I'm not really interested in modern machines, but I look at ALL the machines.  No power cord, motor controller (aka foot pedal), or manual was present--or at least that's what the sneaky machine led us to believe. My favorite cashier Miss Maggie looked it over too.  The reason it was $5 was the missing power cord and pedal.  I figured a Pfaff for $5 was worth a chance at least.

Popped it into the back of my truck and by the time I got home the road vibrations had popped open the "secret" compartment in the cover.  And there were the missing cord, pedal, and manual.

I know y'all are vintage folk, so I'm not going to tell you about all its marvelous features like the fact it tells you when the bobbin is going to run out. Or any of the other nonessential whiz bang features that modern machines have. I'm not going to drool over the joy of stitching on it.

UPDATE:  OMG I totally forgot to NOT tell you about the awesome dual feed.  Thanks for the reminder Angie!  It's a built in walking foot but way better.  Better because you can use many different presser feet with it.

And I'm not going to describe all of the decorative stitches that you can make up to 9 mm wide.  9 mm!!!  My vintage flat cam Singers will do a dainty 5 mm and my modern (2005) Janome will do 7 mm.  And I absolutely love decorative stitches.

apron ties

9 mm, yum.  Shown on a one inch grid in case you are an American and don't have a clue how big 9 millimeters is.  (says this American who, after a 25 years of teaching earth science at a major university, still can't mentally translate Fahrenheit to Celsius.  Which I still think of as Centigrade).


So dear readers, are you using any non-traditional devices for thread holding?  Tell us in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's how I roll

So this is how I deal with grief and loss.

I spent much of the last two weeks hiding in my studio making totes to take to the grocery store.

Each car will now have two totes and a cooler bag.

It's not the first time in my life that I have turned to fabrics for solace.

There is a coop grocery store in my little town where the cool thing to do is to take your own grocery bags.  I wanted grocery totes that would stand up and stay open while loading in the goodies.  Not the floppy kind.  And I wanted pockets (shown here and there, inside and out).  And a ring to clip my bunch of keys to (sewed to a loop inside a pocket on most of the bags and not shown).

The secret ingredient is a giant roll of some kind of spun polyester that looks a lot like landscaping fabric but is heavier and more rigid.  I bought the roll for a few bucks from a local charity shop.  It made the ideal interfacing for this project.  Can't be ironed though.  AMHIK.

So all of this started with a simpler desire for some totes that worked the way I wanted.  Also in the mix was a longstanding yearning to do something interesting with the leftover
African fabrics from Andre's quilt.

I also freely mixed in other fabrics, African or otherwise.  The bag above has two African fabrics on the outside and an American Kwanzaa fabric on the inside.

The fabric above was from a floor length wrap skirt, hand painted in Bermuda, or so the label said.  It found me in the usual way, via a thrift shop.  It was fun planning the placement of the motifs on the tote.

The tallest bags in the back of the photos above and below are the cooler bags.  I didn't have any African fabric in pieces large enough for those.  But I had a splendid Kaafe large scale print (below) and a nice print that went with all the orange (above).

This is what makes it a cooler bag:  Outer fabric bonded to Insul Bright using Stitch Witchery (because I have a whole bolt of it from the thrift store).  Lining fabric bonded to another piece of Insul Bright.  No spun poly needed in order for it to stand up on its own.

This worked fairly well but bonding it did produce wrinkles.  Which brings us to one of the most important aspects of this project.  THEY ARE JUST GROCERY TOTES.  A few wrinkles, which I absolutely could NOT live with if this were a purse, just do not matter for a grocery tote.

This was absolutely the perfect project for a bad time.  Luscious fabrics.  Experimenting with new materials and techniques.  A serious lowering of standards from "the best I can do" to "anything goes."

Even though I lowered my standards I still finished the insides of the bags.  For some of them I treated outer, interfacing, and lining fabric as one.  In that case I used bias binding to cover the raw edges (above).

For a couple of the bags I made separate linings so that I could skip the seam-finishing thing.  A piece of cardboard in its own little pillowcase sits at the bottom of the bag and holds the lining in place (above).  Works fine, but I like the treat-all-the-layers-as-one results better.

The cooler bags close with velcro.  Inside each one will be another, metallic cooler bag (shown below).  These have a surface that can easily be wiped clean.  The metallic bags originally came with Hello Fresh boxes (a meal delivery service).

All of the bags have polypropylene webbing straps that go ALL the way under and back up again.  This is the secret for totes that will tote ANYTHING.   The 1" width is rated for 600 pounds.

Another great thing about this project was indulging my passion for fringe and rick rack.  Tassel fringe is the icing on the cake.  I find leftovers of great stuff like this at the thrift shops.  I find almost everything in the thrift shops, including giant rolls of polypropylene and cotton webbing. And black bias binding, enough for several lifetimes.  But I did have to buy a new roll of black webbing for this project.

Almost anything is improved by rick rack, and the bigger the better.  I had to switch to 1.5" webbing to accomodate this red rick rack.

If you look very closely at the red rick rack below, you will see that I made good use of the 9 mm wide zigzag on my new-to-me 22 year old Pfaff electronic wonder. I hate it when the edges of rick rack curl up.

Yes, this took forever.  There are 125" of rick rack sewn to 125" of webbing.  But I LIKE sewing and I enjoy the process.  Otherwise I wouldn't do it.  Doh.  This is a hobby, it is supposed to be fun.

And layering tiny black rick rack on top of the medium orange rick rack (shown below) took a while too but I like the way it goes with the design on this fabric.

The last three days of this project I was snow-bound and really threw myself into it.  By this time the blues were lifting and I was just enjoying it.  And Mother Nature provided the perfect backdrop for the photo shoot.

So, all that therapy, all that fun and at the end I have what is


the most fabulous collection of grocery totes imaginable.

So, not bad as a coping strategy, right?  How do YOU roll?


R.I.P.  Helen Frostick Warren, 09/06/1925 to 12/12/2016.  World's best mother-in-law.

On her 90th birthday she checked off "ride a motorcycle" from her bucket list.

Monday, December 5, 2016

What is my sewing machine worth?

There really is no answer to this question.  Read on and I will explain why.

No photos in this post.  I'm blogging from a secret bunker under the Antarctic ice.  Or some other place where I don't have access to my photos.

Here's what happens.  A person inherits or otherwise acquires a vintage sewing machine.  They google the make and model.  The find my blog in which I enthuse about it.  They hope it is actually worth something.  They write to me to ask "what is my sewing machine worth?"

I am here today to break your heart.  You're welcome.

The heartbreaking news is that you will be lucky if you can sell it AT ALL.

There is a small group of hardcore vintage sewing machine enthusiasts.  We love the old machines, often to the point of obsession.  Our missionary zeal leads us to sing their praises every time we are around sewing people.  But nobody listens.

I belong to a wonderful quilt guild of about 50 women (Alamance Piecemakers, in Burlington NC).  They all know how I love the old machines.  But they really DON'T want to hear that the old piece of cast iron they inherited from granny is actually a far BETTER machine than the plastic whiz bang wonder that they spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on.  I have finally learned my lesson on that.

I'm not there to make enemies.

Back to the hardcore vintage enthusiast.  We already own dozens of machines. My own collection always hovers around 100.  I'm willing to pay $25 for something I really, really want.  My guild sisters donate others to me all the time as do other people.  I ALWAYS try to talk them into keeping them.  I have never succeeded.  Not once.

I donate some but only if I know exactly where they are going.  Kind of like puppies or kittens.  You don't just hand them out to people who will abuse them.   And they do need regular cleaning and oiling which I can teach someone how to do in 2 minutes flat.  I don't want them to go to the kind of person who thinks that she can pay a service center $100/year to do what she should be spending 2 minutes a month on doing herself.  This also applies if I am selling them.

Yes, I AM a judgmental witch.

I do sell some.  Whether selling or donating I have spent a MINIMUM of 5 hours cleaning, oiling, and checking them out.  It is usually much more than that.  I do it for fun and for the love of the old machines.  I don't donate or sell any machine unless it is in perfect operating condition and as clean as I can get it.

What do you get paid for an hour of your labor?

I sell them to friends (and friends of friends and guild sisters whether they are friends or someone I really don't know very well) for the exact amount I have invested in the machine and any needed
replacement parts.  Plus a bottle of oil and a lint brush.  Notice that I am not charging friends anything for my labor.

I sell others on CraigsList from time to time.  If it is straight stitch only it is well nigh impossible to sell.  If it will zigzag AND is a pretty color I might get $150.  Keep in mind that this is for a completely tested and serviced machine in perfect operating condition.

So.  I probably spent $50 on average for the machine, parts, and supplies.  Say an average of 10 hours of labor on the machine.  At least an hour taking and editing photos for the ad.  Writing the ad.  Time, gas, and depreciation on my car running around finding machines.  If this was a business which it quite obviously is not.  Purchase of specialized tools.  One whole room of my house dedicated to this obsession (just the repair space, not counting all the sewing machines strewn all over the house).

Get the drift?

There is ONE make and model that "normal" sewing people want and are willing to spend a reasonable amount for.  The Singer Featherweight, model 221 or the extremely rare free arm 222.  Reasonable = $300 to $500 for a Featherweight in fully serviced condition, upwards of $1000 for the 222.  Normal = people not obsessed by vintage machines.

There are a few other models that the obsessed are willing to shell out $100 to $200 for.  I'm not going down that rabbit hole in this post, but when I get a question about one of them I give advice about what to say in a CraigsList ad.

So, in answer to the most recent query:  You should definitely keep it.  You will never see a finer machine than that one new in any store at any price.  They just do not make them like that anymore.  Learn to sew if you don't know already.

What's it worth?  Whatever you can get someone to give you.  If anything at all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dragon-ing Up a Singer 99 and DIY gold decals

You read that right, fellow VSM addicts, DIY gold decals!  A breakthrough!  Read on down for the whole story....)

You can never have too many Singer 99s or its identical cousin, the Singer 192, aka Spartan.  The smaller size means that they make ideal hand crank machines for children.  And all children NEED a hand crank sewing machine.  Obviously.

My last two machine refurbs were hand cranks for my young friends Nellie and Clinton, who are twins.  You have already seen the princessy pink machine for Nellie in earlier posts.  But it is so adorable I cannot resist showing it to you again.

Clinton opted for a black machine, which was nice for me.  I couldn't just leave it alone however, I wanted to bling it up in a more boy-appropriate way.

While I was pondering ways and means of adding new gold decorations to the bed of this machine I spied some temporary jewelry decals at Walmart.  Amazon has even more, LOTS more.  Figured they were worth a try.  They were cheap ($1/package) and I bought multiples of each of the sets they had.  One of the sets had a dragon.

To apply the jewelry decals to either your skin or the bed of a sewing machine, you cut the motif out then peel the backing off of the adhesive side.  Stick this down.  Then you wet the paper on top, wait for it to soften, and then peel that layer off, leaving the decal revealed on your skin or machine.

As usual when trying something new, it made me nervous and therefore I neglected to take pictures of this part of the process.

The dragon looked fantastic and I clear coated over it.

By the next day the gold was "silvering".  The chemicals of the clear coat were destroying the gold.

Whoops.  By this time I also figured out that I had applied the dragon upside down (standing on its head, so to speak).

no longer totally gold!

Good thing I had bought multiples of each decal set.  I scraped the silvered dragon off of the sewing machine, cleaned up the bed, then applied a new one.

are we having fun yet?

This time I masked off the dragon (simply by cutting a dragon size hole in a piece of scrap paper) and spraying fixatif over the dragon on the sewing machine.

This worked and the dragon stayed a bright shiny gold.

 I also added some other decorative decals to Clinton's machine.

the lightning flash is gold instead of the red it appears here.

When I started this I thought I was very clever and the FIRST person to think of adding temporary jewelry decals to a sewing machine.  Silly me.  Eleanor in Australia casually mentioned this technique in a message to me.  As if everybody already knew this.  Everybody but me that is.

Looks great, no?


A while back there was chat on the boards about gold decals.  It is not possible to print gold on your home printer.  Extensive investigation (ahem, 15 minutes of googling) led me to discover that there was once such a printer but it is no longer available, if you can still find a used one it will cost around $500, and good luck with getting it serviced when it breaks down.  I have a hate-hate relationship with home printers so I was not tempted to look into this any further.

But my mind kept mulling it over.  And mulling.  And even some stewing.  And here today folks, is a Dragon Poodle EXCLUSIVE:  How to create gold decals for a black sewing machine.  That's right, I solved the problem.  You can send donations through PayPal to my email account in gratitude and respect.  Or not, because I am going to tell you anyhow.

I am really, really pleased, happy, ecstatic and absolutely full of myself over this.  I'll try not to go on and on about it. Really, I will try.

The technique is really, really simple.  The catch:  so far I have only tried it on a black machine.  And I have only tried it with text.

I used a word processing program to create the text for a label for the back pillar of Clinton's machine.  I use Open Office, which is much like Microsoft Office but it's free.

I created a text box.  I used the color white for the text and black for the background of the text box.

The first label in the photo above was printed in "draft" mode, which saves a lot of ink.  When I was happy with it (size, etc) I printed out three in "text" mode on inkjet waterslide decal paper.  Three because three went all the way across the page.   I could cut them off and save the rest of that page to print something else on later on.  Printing just one would have used up the same amount of the (not cheap) waterslide decal paper.

As with all inkjet printed waterslide decals, I then had to spray clear coat over it and let that dry.  I did that three times.  Without the clear coat the ink would melt right off of the decal.

(I have written about waterslide decals before.)

I taped around the paper draft of the decal on the back of the pillar.

Creating a space where the final decal would go.

Then I filled in that gap with gold paint.  See where we are going here? Are you getting excited about this yet?  Well, you should be.  It's absolutely brilliant if I do say so myself.  And I do say so.

After the gold paint was thoroughly dry (the next day) I applied the waterslide decal over the gold.
Remember that the text was in white?  Well, your printer does not spray white ink.  Paper is white, so white is just vacant in an image.  Hence, the gold shows through.  And we have a gold decal on a black machine, all done on a home inkjet printer!

You can see a few lines around the edge where some gold is showing.  I should have masked off a bit more before applying the gold paint.  But my trusty black Sharpie paint pen (not a regular Sharpie) solved that problem nicely.

More clear coat over the whole machine (including the temporary tattoo decals) and it was done.

With a bit of photoshopping you could take any black image and reverse the colors from black on white to white on black and do the same thing.  A line of decorative filigree, for example, or even an image of a dragon.  I plan to try this in the future.

(I use Photoscape, much like the light version of Adobe Photoshop, but free).

You could also experiment with color.  I think it would be hard to get an exact color match, but you could use a coordinating color and have white on teal on a pink machine, for example, which would give you a pink machine with gold designs bordered by teal.  This would not be too hard with a linear design or a label.

Lots of possibilities!  So who wants to experiment, photograph the results, and be the next honored DragonPoodle guest blogger?