Friday, July 15, 2011

Michael Makes A Pillow

Michael came over for his second sewing lesson today.  First lesson was basic machine orientation and choosing a project.  He decided on a covered throw pillow.  Piping AND a zipper right out of the gate, ambitious AND challenging.  But I firmly believe that the best way to teach anything is to have the student plunge right in to a project they want to do.

Fortunately he didn't want to make a tuxedo.

The phrase "duck to water" springs to mind.  He claims never to have used a sewing machine before.  He figured out how to use features of the sewing machine to solve problems on the fly. Then told me how he did it. 

He bought a pillow form, a zipper and some fabric at Walmart and recycled the piping from an older pillow.

Pretty impressive for a first time project, eh?  He got the whole thing finished up in one afternoon, too.

Let's hear it for Michael!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tuesday Thrifting. Top Hat Trade.

On Mondays my favorite charity shop, motherlode of sewing goodness, is closed for restocking.  I'm usually there on Tuesday mornings.  I wasn't going to go this week, but when a lunch date fell through at the last minute I hit the road.  And the sewing trinkets jackpot.

If you are just willing to wait, almost anything will show up in your price range. If your price limits are low, this just keeps the thrill of the hunt going that much longer!

My price limit for boxes containing feet, cams or attachments is $5.  I knew that sooner or later I would find the pink Jetsons slant-shank buttonholer and this was my lucky week.

No modern machine with "automatic" buttonholes can match a good Singer buttonholer.   Ask anybody who has tried both.

This one has 5 cams, but they are interchangeable and I have several other Singer buttonholers, and all the cams.

Here's the find of the week: a zig-zagger for the Singer 301, in the box, with the manual, and discs 1-4.  The 301 is a straight stitch machine and the zig-zagger moves the fabric back and forth.  Do you know if this is the device known as "the penguin"?  If you know, please leave a note below.

This is an example of "I want it because it is just so cool" rather than "I want this because it works so well" (like the buttonholers).  The general opinion on the boards is that this object is a waste of time.  But just so cool. 

I bought a bag of miscellaneous feet for $2 because there was something in there that I had never seen before, and I am a total sucker for presser feet.

The mystery object is a Chadwick zig-zagger.  I also bought another Chadwick ZZ in a box.  From 0 to 3 zig-zaggers in one fell swoop.  The Chadwicks are for low shank machines. 

I have big plans for one of these Chadwicks.  Watch for an upcoming announcement from DragonPoodle International.

Turns out the rest of the bag was a nice set of snap-on low shank feet.   The triangular object on the left is a mystery.  It has the letter "R" on it.  Any ideas?

I adore feet and attachments of all kinds, whether I use them or not.  I do use a surprising number of them, but I am even fonder of the oddball ones. 

Finally, I bought a box of Singer 638 attachments mostly in the hope that the bobbins would work in a 603E that I am hoping will chainstitch for me one day.  Nice slant shank feet too.  And a bunch more top hat cams, which are threatening to take over the studio.

So, if you need a set of top hat cams, Nos. 1-7 (you can google the patterns), feel free to offer any sewing related trade.  I'm looking for the rare 0 (zero) zig-zag cam, and the 23 basting cam (don't know if this is rare or not).  You would be crazy to trade a rare one for the very common set I have.  So make me an offer!  anything sewing related.  The odder the better.

I'll even throw in half a dozen class 15 metal bobbins if you need them for another one of your machines because I am suddenly wealthy in class 15 bobbins.  All this treasure from one unplanned visit to the thrift shop.

The Fine Print
Offer expires July 31, 2011 or later if I don't get any offers by then. 6 class 15 metal  bobbins and Singer top hat cams Nos. 1-7 only (no box or other cams or attachments).  If you don't know whether your machine takes Singer top hat cams, then it doesn't.  If you don't know whether your machine takes class 15 metal bobbins or not, then put down the scissors and step away from the sewing machine.  Offer that appeals to me the most will be accepted (dollar value is totally unimportant).  Postage paid for by senders (you and me).  Second place winner will be offered Singer top hat cams Nos. 1-6.  Told you I have a boatload of cams!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review of Two New Fix-It Blogs. And a Dragon.

Disclaimer:  this is in no way a comprehensive guide to sewing machine fix-it blogs.  Lately I have been amazed and astonished by the work on two new blogs, and want to share this with you. 

The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog
"Find 'em, get 'em, fix 'em, clean 'em, and use 'em"

The good, the bad, and the ugly
This is a new blog that describes in wonderful detail the work he is doing to his vintage Singers.  Lots of great photographs, excellent descriptions and details.  If you fix up vintage machines (Singers or otherwise) you will find this fascinating.

Lately I have been absorbed by his discussion of screwdrivers.  Screwdrivers have been the bane of my existence for the past year (the length of my obsession with vintage machines) and thanks to Rain I now know why, and more importantly, what to do about it.

I would also echo everything he says about vintage Singers in his first post, Why Vintage Singers? 
I don't limit myself to Singers, but I do limit the amount I will spend on a machine, and it is mostly Singers that come my way in my price range.


My Sewing Machine Addiction
"This is about the strip down and restoration of a 1940 Singer 201-2 sewing machine, and probably some other random thoughts along the way."

Singer 201s are reputed to be wonderful machines, and high on my wish list.  One will come my way sooner or later, but if it is totally rusted and non-operational, I WILL JUST WALK AWAY FROM IT.  This woman took a different path and is doing a TOTAL strip down and restoration of a rusted out 201.  She makes it clear on her blog that this is not for everyone.  She used to restore classic cars, and is still driving a 1967 Chevy Malibu that she restored.  My kind of woman!  and my kind of vintage, too---I graduated from high school in 1967.

I have often wondered what it would be like to take a machine totally apart, and thanks to Elle I get to live through the experience vicariously.  She also puts up lots of excellent photographs illustrating her process.  I'm learning a lot from her that will be useful even on non-total strip downs.


This one is not strictly a fix-it blog, but a nice story of a woman restoring a "Lampzilla":  a Singer 127 or 128 that had been turned into a lamp.  She also recently restored a Necchi cabinet.

I have a couple of machines that I plan to paint someday, so I am always interested in seeing that process illustrated.  Lampzilla will be a nice shade of robin's egg blue, one of my own favorite colors.

yarn, kids, dogs, and a few wierdos

Finally, why is there a picture of a dragon teapot at the top of the page?  Because a blog without photos is like a day in Florida with or without Anita Bryant, depending upon your philosophy.  And the Anita Bryant reference is a time trap:  if you "get it" you are probably as old as I am!

Really, it is an eye candy gift to my blogging buddy, the "other" Cheryl at Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting.  I don't collect teapots (six is not a serious collection, and one addiction is plenty, thank you very much!) but dragons do perch here from time to time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Machine for Jenn: SMAD* runs rampant

*SMAD:  Sewing Machine Acquisition Disorder

one of the DDs asked me if I would be willing to teach a friend of hers to sew.  Silly question!  I made contact with her friend Jenn, and Jenn indicated that she needed a machine.  I easily convinced her that what she REALLY needed was a wonderful vintage machine, and not plastic crap.

so I trolled the thrift shops for the next week and also dug into the "archives" to see what I had squirreled away on the shelves.  My MIL asked me if I was really going to be able to find one I was willing to part with.

Here are the results:
The lavender Kenmore mentioned in an earlier post (and henceforth named "Brigadoon" for its ability to appear and disappear) reappeared at my favorite charity shop.  Apparently they have a new volunteer who knows something about machines, and she included a lengthy note describing its condition and what she had done to it in a way that gave me a lot of confidence about the machine.   Enough confidence to bring it home with me.  It does straight and zig-zag but nothing else.  It just purrs.  Lovely machine.  But you may have noticed that I tend to fall in love with ALL of the machines that come home with me.

A nice shiny Singer 66 in a modern plastic case.  I'm not a big fan of the 66's, but this one does reverse, and it is in marvelous condition.  This is probably the model I learned to sew on (more about the confusion in a future post).  And a 66 is certainly a cast iron workhorse.  I didn't think a straight stitch machine would be best for Jenn, I just wanted to show her the options.

 A Taiwanese green machine badged "Aldens" and almost identical to the green Dressmaker that I discussed in an earlier post.  This machine was super cheap at the Goodwill, and for good reason.  It looked horrible.  It was filthy.   I bought it in the hopes that I could cannibalize the tensioner off of it and put it on the Dressmaker.  When I got it home and opened it up I was amazed.  It was very clean inside, and with a few drops of oil it sews smoothly.  It is all metal inside, no plastic gears, although parts of the face plates are plastic.  It takes cams, although I don't have any that fit it.  It does zig-zag without a cam. The paint on the handwheel is badly chipped, but other than that it cleaned up to be a beautiful machine.  I could now cannibalize the green handwheel off the Dressmaker, but I still have hopes for that one.

A 401, with a nice set of feet and cams, and a repro manual.  I expect to get some serious money for this one some day, and I didn't think that Jenn would want to invest this much in a hobby that she is just diving in to.  Also just an option.

and a note on pricing:  on all the other machines I am just expecting to recover my investment, NOT including my investment of time cleaning, oiling, fixing, etc.  Very few people can make money on vintage sewing machines because there is an enormous supply and practically no demand, except for a few models that have caught the attention of collectors (famously the Singer 221, and less so for the 301, 401 and 500).

And speaking of the Singer 500, The Rocketeer
This was one of the first ones I collected when the SMAD bug bit me, and I made some mistakes.  It did not have a controller (foot pedal) nor a bobbin slide cover.  Now I know what those things cost to replace!  The soapdish works fine (top cover) but the left hand cover hinge pin is broken, which is a common flaw on these machines.  I'd rather let it go to a friend now than invest even more in parts in the hope of making a profit in the future.  This one also has a nice set of feet, cams, and a repro manual.

I have read that the 500 is identical mechanically to the 401, and that these are considered to be "the best machines that Singer ever made".  In fact, it says this on the cover to the manual, so it MUST be true, right?

Jenn likes this one, but she also wants a cabinet and the only one I have that will fit it is plywood covered in blond wood-patterned Formica.  It is not only the sewing machines that went downhill over time, the cabinets followed right along.

Cases, on the other hand, went from bad to worse.  The exception here is the case to the lavender Kenmore, which is the most attractive vintage case I have seen.  Not flawless by any means, but sturdy and covered in a black and white tweedy vinyl, I think.

Most of the vintage cases I have look more like this, filthy and shedding their original coverings
and if funky vintage plywood covered with something like vinyl wallpaper or cloth does not float your boat, there is always the modern alternative:  white plastic!

Jenn is debating between the lavender Kennie and the Rocketeer.  I've suggested that she can switch back and forth between them during the lessons and test drive them much more extensively.