Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fall Frenzy: S.M.A.D.

This fall has seen the full impact of S.M.A.D. on my life.  That's Sewing Machine Acquisition Disorder.

Personally, I blame Helen.  She gave me her mother's treadle and I had lots of fun restoring it.  That got me started reading the TreadleOn bulletin board, and I started lusting after other vintage sewing machines.  It also lead me to the Vintage Singers yahoo group, which includes electric machines through the early 1960's.  More machines to lust over.

Or maybe I should blame Jan.  After all, she found the first in what became a long line of machine acquisitions this fall.  A lovely 301 from the Habitat store.

But I was determined not to fall victim to the most serious form of the disease.  Some of the other sufferers on the boards have more than 50 machines.  I already had 9 before all of this started (embroidery, industrial, several sergers, decorative stitch, straight stitch, etc.).  I had to have a strategy.

This was it:  every machine I own has a specific purpose, something it does exclusively or better than any of the others.  I had to stick with this.

Surely you can see where this is going.  It became an exercise in creative thinking:  how many reasons can I think of for buying a sewing machine?

Obviously I need a sewing machine that is perfect for teaching children to sew.  Never mind that I don't currently have any children around clamoring to learn to sew.  That's irrelevant.  When one shows up, I MUST BE READY.
This is the answer:  A Singer 128.  It did not look like this when I bought it.  It was covered in grunge, had no foot pedal, and the insulation on the motor wires was shot.  I did a motorectomy, cleaned and polished it (many, many, hours) and replaced the missing bobbin cover with clear plastic and added a hand crank (hand crank not shown in photo).

The 128 is a 3/4 size machine, which makes it more appealing to smaller folk.  People on the boards say that children prefer a hand crank.  I still remember that terrifying moment, age 12, when I first put pedal to the metal on my Mom's 1939 singer.

$22.50 and about that much again in parts (hand crank and some extra bobbins).

That was my first venture into the world of CraigsList.  Uh Oh!  SO many sewing machines, many in my $25-or-less price range.  And on CraigsList in another town I found a version of myself with a more advanced stage of the disease.  In her living/dining room area she had 6 treadles.  She had 8 portables on display on her dining room table (those were the ones for sale).  She made reference to at least 2 more treadles and several other portables lurking in other corners of her apartment.  I drooled over all the ones for sale but left with only two.
 Singer 401a.  According to many on the boards, this is the finest sewing machine that Singer ever made.

The previous owner had dis-assembled it for cleaning and what I bought was the pieces in a box.  No foot pedal but the one from my 301 worked on it.  I gave it a thorough cleaning, oil and lube.  It is running smoothly and I have sewn a few minor things on it.

$10, plus 2-3x that in parts:  foot pedal of its own, miscellaneous small parts including new thread pins.  Shown in the photo are bamboo skewers used as thread pins. 

The price does not factor in the fact that now I have an excuse to search out and buy slant-shank attachments. And I have done so.

Fully assembled but missing some vital parts, a Singer 500.  This also has its proponents for the title best-Singer-ever.  Do I need TWO best-Singer-evers?  Obviously not.  So what is the justification for this machine?  Someone else in my family might want one some day.  The three of the next generation who sew all have their own machines, but those machines might (will) break down someday.  And I WILL BE READY.  So I probably need two more extras, right?

I replaced the missing parts, oiled and lubed it, but haven't done any cleaning on it yet.

$25 + about that in parts (power cord/foot pedal, presser foot screw, bobbin cover).  The hinge on the light cover is broken at the top but it works fine that way.

306 partially disassembled
The last one was just a mistake.  I saw a machine on CraigsList and the photo looked like a 319.  To me the 319 looks very steampunk, with levers coming out of the top, and I really, really want one.  Keep in mind that 6 months ago I had never heard of any of these machines!  I misidentified it.  By the time I discovered this I had gotten my DH to drive me an hour away from home.  It was a 306, very dirty and completely frozen, but in a dirty but sturdy cabinet with drawers.  He wanted $40, I said I could only pay $20 for a machine that was not working, and I got it for that.

The fun is in the fixing, and there has been plenty of fixing to do on this machine.  It was filthy, the photos don't convey the degree of grime.  It is just as grungy inside.  It had not been oiled in decades, best guess.  There was a thread jam that was not accessible--I had to take the bobbin mechanism apart to get it out.  It is now clean on the outside, oiled and lubed (but not de-grunged on the inside) and it is sewing a beautiful stitch--by handwheel only at this point.  The insulation is completely gone off of the wires in many places and more of it shatters and falls to the floor every time you touch it.  I bought replacement wire for it but the rewiring is a task for after Thanksgiving, if not even later.  After all, it's not like I don't have other machines to sew on.

So what is the justification for this machine?  Uh, wait a moment, I'm sure I will think of something.... 
  • The cabinet was worth the $20.
  • It kind of looks like a 319, which I still want
  • It came with a box of attachments in pristine condition, which I could sell on eBay.  Except I won't.
  • It has a straight stitch throat plate, which means that I could get rid of my vintage Japanese straight stitch machine, which I love for piecing.  Except I won't.
Did you notice that all of those are reasons to BUY the machine but not reasons to OWN one.  I did and I have no answer for it!
    And in the end I have only myself to blame.  And the folks on the TreadleOn board.  And the folks on the Vintage Singers board.  And even my DH, who turned out to be an enabler.  After I told him my strategy he "got" it right away.  "Oh," he said.  "It's just like guitars."

    Yep.  But MUCH cheaper.