Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sewing Machines For Sale

Note to my regular readers:  I am selling off some of the herd on CraigsList and will use the blog to give prospective buyers additional information.  Sorry, I won't ship them.

My hobby is restoring vintage sewing machines.  The all-metal machines of the 1960's and earlier were real workhorses designed to last forever and it is pleasure to bring them back to life.  Modern machines are made of plastic and computer components and are designed to last a few years.  Feel free to throw your money away on one of those if you like.  But for the same price as a low end plastic wonder from Walmart you COULD have a lovely vintage sewing machine that will probably outlive you. 

90% of the time all the vintage machines need is a thorough cleaning and some new oil and lube.  Anyone even slightly mechanical can do this, by the way, but it does take time.  I spend between 5 and 20 hours on each machine (longer for the really old ones with beautiful but tragically fragile decals).  I love doing this but after years of this hobby I have a house full of restored vintage sewing machines.  I only "need" a dozen or so for myself ;), so it is time to clear house and make room so that I can buy MORE vintage sewing machines.

Every machine I sell has been cleaned, oiled, lubed, and tested thoroughly.  If it has a motor, every inch of the wiring has been inspected and appears to be sound.  The motor has been run at full speed for half an hour, giving it plenty of time for any problems to show up.  I don't open the motors for inspection--that is beyond my skill level at this time.  If the machine does not perform well I don't sell it--I may strip it for parts, but I won't sell it.

I am not running a business.  My goal in selling them is to clear space and to gather some funds to buy even more vintage sewing machines, and the tools I need to fix them.  I think you will find my prices not only reasonable, but ridiculously low if you consider the labor that has gone into them.

Prices for vintage machines on CraigsList range from quite cheap ($25 and under) to stratospherically delusional.  You can get great deals just about any time and if you are interested in buying a cheap one and restoring it yourself it is pretty easy to do.  But you won't know until you get it home and spend the time on it whether it will turn out to be a gem or a dud.  If it has a missing piece you may or may not be able to get parts for it, and if you can it will probably double the price of that "cheap" machine.  It may look vintage and cool and yet have non-metal parts lurking inside just waiting to break.

Or, you can buy one from me, spend a bit more and know that it it is an all-metal machine which will work.  I guarantee every machine I sell for 30 days.  At Christmas time I extend the warranty to January 31, so if you give it as a gift the recipient will have plenty of time to check it out after the holidays.  I've never seen another CraigsList seller of vintage sewing machines offer a warranty.  In five years of selling, I have only had one machine returned.  And I gave the owner a loaner while I made further adjustments to that machine, successfully, and then returned it to her.

I will spend up to an hour with you (or later with the recipient of your gift) demonstrating the machine.

Lessons are also available, for money or barter.  I enormously prefer barter.  Can you make handmade tortillas?  Create a simple database?  Clean out gutters? Groom poodles?  Build a garden fence?  Till a garden (starting from grass cover)?  Teach me how to do maintenance on sewing machine motors?  Perhaps you have a skill you can barter for sewing lessons.  (My favorite barter was with a professional massage therapist, but I doubt I will ever be that lucky again.)

I'm also always looking for an apprentice.  This person would trade me one hour of their time cleaning up the studio and doing miscellaneous studio-related chores in return for an hour of sewing instruction.  He or she would get to play with all the studio toys and have access to all of my supplies at my (thrift shop) cost.  I imagine a young teenager doing this, but would not discriminate based on age.   If a young person does this, I will provide continuous real-time video coverage privately available online to their parent(s) or guardian(s), for their peace of mind about their child's security.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Vintage Quilt Analysis: Scrappy 1960s

This quilt came home with me from the thrift shop.  I paid all of $8 for it.  It was only after I got it home and took a close look at it that I realized why it attracted me.  It is not an especially lovely or aesthetically pleasing quilt.

The flying geese on the left are another quilt layered beneath this one.
I "know" this quilt on a very deep level, although it's maker and history are completely unknown to me.

I can place it in time to "The Sixties", using Tom Wolfe's definition that the decade that we think of as the Sixties took place from 1965 to 1975.  I know.  I was there.

In the Sixties, the only people who were still quilting were old ladies who had taken it up in the Twenties or Thirties.  My great aunt Bessie, for instance, who made lovely traditional applique quilts.

This quilt has all the hallmarks of a quilt made BEFORE the great quilting revival that began after the American Bicentennial.  Made by someone who was not trained in any quilting tradition.  Someone who could sew, and who had seen quilts, possibly crazy quilts, but who had no idea how to go about it.

Is it pieced?  Is it appliqued?  Yes.  It does have a basic block structure, and piecing happened, but when the quilter ran into a problem she simply sewed patches down on top of other patches.  

There is no attempt at a color scheme.  She used whatever she had of the leftovers from garment and home dec sewing.

It is competently quilted in a thick black thread and in the pattern known as "Baptist Fan". 

So, why do I feel that I know this quilt and understand the quiltmaker?  Because I made a very similar quilt in 1971, before I knew anything at all about quilting.

The inspiration was this quilt, made by Shelley Cook in 1970 and given to me when my son was born.  It's receiving-blanket-size.  She pieced it and then machine quilted it down on top of pre-quilted fabric.

It doesn't have the crazy-quilt piecing/appliqueing of the quilt above, but it does use the same type of mix of garment and home dec fabrics.

I liked it very much and copied the idea to make this quilt, which is about half a crib-sized quilt.   Similar fabric mix to Shelley's quilt, and even today 40 years later I could tell you what dresses, shirts, curtains, and tapestry handbags were the the origins of the scraps that made this quilt.

These two quilts were treasured for years and later became our "sit-upons" for visits to the lake at Hueston Woods, OH.

This was mostly pieced, but if you look very closely you can find at least one spot where it ventured into appliqued patches.

The problem-solving-through-applique approach can be seen much better in the first quilt I made, but before I really learned anything about quilting.  Georgia Bonesteel was on public TV by this time, and I used a quilt-as-you-go technique, building each block on a base of batting and muslin.  I could not stand the thought of all that hand-sewing of the seam allowances on the back of the quilt, so the seam allowances are on the front and covered with ribbon.  I had scored a large spool of ribbon at a thrift shop.

The circles are from a decades-later repair.  I really like them and now wish I had put even more on there.

Here's the story that goes with this quilt.
This was the very first bed sized quilt that I ever made.  I had the idea for it for a long time and hoarded thrift shop garments in velvets and sparkly fabrics and cut them up.  Many of these fabrics were not good choices for a quilt, but I didn't know any better then.  I did know that "real" crazy quilts had lots of embroidery on them but I had no patience for that. 

My daughters were very young at the time--I  think Emily was 3 or 4 years old.   When the quilt was finished she looked at it with very big eyes and said "Is that for ME?"  I was absolutely delighted that she reacted that way and so it WAS for her.  We called it her princess quilt.

This story always embarrasses her because she thinks it means that she was greedy and acquisitive at that young age.  At least I think that is why it embarrasses her.  The funny part of that is that she is not, and never has been, the least bit greedy or acquisitive.

For my part, absolutely nothing could have thrilled me more than the fact that my daughter instantaneously fell in love with the very first quilt I ever made.  And that's why I keep telling this story.