Saturday, January 19, 2013

BANNED from the vintage Kenmore yahoo group!

Wowzer!  I posted a message a couple of days ago to the vintage kenmore yahoo group and suddenly stopped getting the digest.  Today I went to the homepage and learned that I have been BANNED from the board.

Now I have NO idea why.  Several months ago I included my blog URL after my signature, and was told that this was against the rules.  So I apologized to the moderator and never did it again.

Recently I tried to post a message saying that I could not open a file on this board, and asked for help.  It had an rar at the end instead of the pdf that all the other files had.  I did not whine or complain in any way.  I just asked for help.  And I got banned.

Anybody have any ideas about this?

I'm not majorly a Kenmore girl, so this won't hurt me too badly.  But it would be nice to know what I did wrong, and I now have no way to contact them to ask why.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Sewing Machine Reduction Plan

Three years ago I restored my husband's grandmother's Singer treadle and an obsession was born.

Lovely to look at, a pain in the neck to sew on.  If the handwheel slips backwards the tiniest bit, the thread breaks

Fortunately DD-A wanted it as an art object for her new house.  She did learn to use it, too.

I have followed the path trod by many others and gone through the same phases:  initial enthusiasm without the necessary knowledge or wisdom, resulting in the acquisition of some questionable machines among the jewels.  Later on, overestimation of my emerging skills, resulting in the unnecessary conversion of a couple of decent machines into parts machines (in other words, in fixing them I broke them).  Lately, facing the consequences of three years of buying sewing machines at thrift shops and from CraigsList: there were 21 sewing machines in my dining room over the holidays.  Fortunately the big dinner is at the MIL's, but really.  21 sewing machines.  And that's just the dining room.  Total head count for the entire house:  88.  It's time to turn the corner and start reducing the herd.

I had a plan, but it morphed along the way.  I was going to focus on getting the high-end Singers (401 and 500) fixed up and sell them on CraigsList.  I delved into half a dozen machines sequentially.

Singer 401s:  Enthusiasts claim that this is the best sewing machine Singer ever made

I even "repaired" one, by which I mean that I unscrewed and adjusted things and got them aligned properly.  Usually all I do is deep clean and oil them.  I always feel especially empowered and virtuous when I move beyond clean-and-oil.  I got to the point where one was clearly going to take up too much time, four each had one small thing that needed to be fixed or added, and the last one is a parts machine that could donate to some of the four.  None of those tiny repairs ever happened.  So I guess I have a plan for Christmas 2013.

In the meantime, the DH's home health nurse got interested in the sewing machines strewn around the house.  Everyone in her family, including her father, sews.  She wants to learn and asked about buying a machine from me.  We discussed it in snippets of time over several weeks.  She absolutely loved the Singer 66 brown Lotus.  Everyone in her family told her she needed a machine with at least reverse and a zig-zag and I explained why I agreed with them.  It took her a while to give up the dream of the Lotus, but in the end she choose a Singer 237 and we put it in a Singer 7-drawer treadle with the gingerbread trim on the sides.  Her family approves, which pleased and surprised me since none of them are treadling.

The Singer 237 is one of my all-time-favorite models.  Sturdy, reliable, simple and straightforward.  Can be treadled or handcranked too.
So I had five 237's sitting around (in the front hall under the entry table), a couple of them never touched, a couple with serious problems or missing parts.  I moved from the 401s and 500s to the 237s and got three into excellent shape, combined two into one good machine and a parts machine.  One went to the nurse (she does have a name but I have not yet asked her permission to mention her here).  Another one went to a nice couple--he made the call initially and said he wanted to buy his wife a sewing machine for Christmas.  Gotta love a guy like that.  One is reserved for studio use.  One needs a minor adjusment to the spring on the tensioner.  And today I bought another one at the thrift shop.  Two out, one in--that's not bad, right? 

A fellow guild member asked me to look at her family treadle.  It turned out to be a Singer 9W, identical to a Wheeler & Wilson D-9, but with a class 221 bobbin rather than the hard to find Wheeler & Wilson bagel bobbin.  The tensioner was badly rusted, so I convinced her to buy a W&W D-9 head from me as a parts machine.  I charged her the ENTIRE $5.00 that I had paid for it, too.  And before you tell me how much I will regret letting it go, let me mention that I have a W&W No.8 with a complete set of the glass presser feet, in its treadle.

Jo's Singer 9W.  It has a Wheeler & Wilson serial number.  We put a new belt on it and got it turning smoothly.

I sold a Singer 338 to a mother for her young daughter.  Grandma is teaching the little girl to sew.  It has problems and they returned it.  Fortunately I had another one to loan them while I try to fix it.  I'm the only person on my local CraigsList to offer a 30-day guarantee on vintage sewing machines.  And if I can't fix it I will either give the money back or they can keep the loaner.

I love Singer's flat cam machines, and these are the prettiest color!

I sold a lovely Riccar 108 Japanese zig-zagger to a woman who has become a student, so you may see her later on.

Everyone who has sewed on this machine loves it (all three of us!)
 And on Christmas Eve I sold a green Alden's zig-zagger to a woman with several daughters.

Never found a cam set to fit it, so it remains a zig-zag and straight stitch only machine.

And here's the best news of all:  THEY ALL TOOK A CABINET WITH THEM.   They took the well-used but sturdy vintage cabinets.  They took the funky not-yet-cleaned cabinet with the peeling veneer.  They even took the beautiful vintage Singer cabinet with the lovely coordinating chair, and they paid extra for that one (the rest were free).

A couple of machines were re-homed without any money changing hands.  The SIL wanted a zig-zagger and took a two-tone aqua Singer 347.  Merry Christmas, Mary!

Simple zig-zagger and very pretty.
And although I haven't delivered it yet, I am planning to give Don back the 15-clone that he gave me.  I had cleaned and oiled his lady's plastic Singer and when I took it back he confessed that he is the sewing person in the household.  His sewing needs are for tarps and canvas and boat cushions.  I told him that he had given me the machine that he really needed.

Post WWII Japanese copies of the Singer model 15 are known as 15 clones.
This was the worst-looking machine ever to come through my hands.  Three living spiders emerged during the cleaning process--three different species, too.  Paint was badly chipped.  Wiring was horrifying, but it turned out that only the light wire was bad, the motor wire was fine.  So I removed the light, cleaned and oiled it, touched up the paint, replaced the missing bobbin cover, put a size 18 needle in it and some heavy duty thread, and adjusted both thread and bobbin tensions for the heavy thread.  Presto-bingo, a boat cushion cover machine for Don's workshop.

After restoration:  Sews beautifully through eight layers of heavy canvas.  Maybe more.

The two other black 15-clones that I had fitted out with hand cranks did not sell.  Not only that, they did not even get a nibble (not a single phone call).  Next year I am going to put the motors back on, fit them up with size 18 needles and market them as workshop machines for guys.  I'll let you know how that goes.

The sales did not end at Christmas.  After Christmas I sold two Singer 301s.  One a lovely LBOW (light beige, oyster white) in a cabinet with the cradle that allows you to snap the machine in and out without unscrewing anything.  AND the matching stool with storage inside.  AND a 301 zig-zagger, buttonholer, and an assortment of slant shank presser feet.

And I sold the black longbed 301 shown in the last blog post.

The nurse came back for another machine, too, a gift for a crafty young relative.

Singer 128, La Vendedora decals.  It now has a new front slide plate and a hand crank.
Eleven machines gone.  So, it sounds like the machine reduction plan was a success, right?  Not so much.  During the same period of time three more machines showed up to join the herd.  Five if you include the month of October.   But those are a story for another day.

That's it for this year.  I sold everything I had fixed up and ready to go.  I did this last Christmas, and plan to do it next Christmas too, but not during the year. I may let a few go to friends or friends of friends, but I don't want to do CraigsList for more than one month a year.   And people enjoy spending money at Christmas when they are looking for gifts for themselves or others.

Are you wondering how many thousands of dollars I made selling these lovely vintage sewing machines?  Mwahahahahahahaha.  The best models sold for just over what a low end plastic wonder from Walmart costs.  I DID recover my own costs, which I carefully track, right down to my favorite double-ended lint brush and bottle of sewing machine oil with a brass telescoping spout.  I can't in all good conscience sell a sewing machine without these.  And here's the disclaimer about my financial relationship with Jenny at Sew-Classic:  I buy stuff from her.  That's it. 

I don't track the time spent on each machine, but I have a pretty good idea.  If you count ONLY the machines I actually sold, I made less than $3/hour.  If you include all the machines I worked on last year and did not sell, my hourly wage drops to well under $1/hour.  What I have NOT tracked is what I spent last year on tools and cleaning chemicals, paint, etc.  So I'm guessing that it is just about at the break even point.  A self-supporting hobby is not to be sneezed at.

And the money from Christmas 2012 went straight back into the hobby.  I bought some industrial-type steel shelves and rolling carts and converted an unused guest room into a sewing machine workshop.  I bought some tools.  I'll take my MIL out to lunch at Two For Tea, my favorite hyper-girly lunch place. And that will take care of it!

Which brings me to a final confession:  I am going to take some dead sewing machine carcasses to a scrap metal dealer to see what I can get.  A 127 with lots of rust, missing critical parts (and stripped of everything useful).  A completely rusted up 66.  And possibly a White missing some vital organs.  At least they will not be in the landfill.  If you are upset by the thought of them being melted down, well, I'm not.  It's a lovely image.  Think Gollum and Mount Doom. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Photographing a Singer 301, black longbed

Well, okay, there is another motive for this blog post.  I promised someone some photos of this machine, and the easiest way for me to do that is to throw them on the blog.  But I got a new camera for Christmas so I will be talking about photography.  And it has been a long time since the last blog post and I am feeling chatty.  Welcome back, hope your holidays were fabulous.

Singer 301, black, longbed

Black sewing machines have to be the toughest to photograph. 

I've taken more than one photography-for-absolute-beginners course over the last 40 years, to no noticeable effect.  I have learned a few things though.

Rule #1:  Take skillions of photos and throw most of them away.

I took about 10 photos of the front of this machine, and none of them were much good.  I do like the shadow effect on this one though.

I especially want to show the surface of this machine, which has some issues, before someone drives an hour to see it.  This was a well used and well maintained machine.  The paint still has some gloss, but also has patina.

Rule #2:  Crop.
I think of my photographs as information rather than as art.  No one would think of my photos as art!  Ruthlessly crop that photo right down to the relevant information.

worn clear coat, but not rough to the touch (or the fabric)

You may have to look closely, but this is an amazing photograph.  If only I knew how I achieved it. 

It shows the areas of the bed where the clear coat has worn away, as well as the worn decals in the front.  I think it looks better than this is real life, but my purpose here, the information I needed to convey, was the condition of that clear coat.
Rule #3:  The auto-fix buttons are your friends.
I use PhotoScape, a free image processing program similar to Photoshop.  Or, to be more accurate, similar to Photoshop Express.  There are tons of image processing programs out there.  Your digital camera undoubtedly came with one.  They all include auto-fix features.  The ones I use in PhotoScape are auto level, auto contrast, and backlight.  I click each one on and then off again if it doesn't help.

And now you know everything I know about photography.  And as I fully expected, getting a better camera did not make me a better photographer.  At least Santa did not go all out (the DH and I always pick out our own presents.  One of the great thing about being married for decades is that you work all that stuff out).  It's a step up from the least expensive 14 megapixel one.  But it looks (to my uneducated eye) like the $900 ones.  It's the same shape anyhow.  I feel all empowered by it.  My last camera was a tiny flat one.  Are you convinced by now that I am not a person whose advice about photography should be taken seriously? 

Getting back to the most important things in life, sewing machines and their accessories:  this one comes with lots of lovely toys.

That familiar green Singer attachments box, with a better-than-usual assortment of vintage presser feet.
Back row, left to right:  binder, adjustable hemmer, edge stitcher, ruffler.  Front row:  seam guide, narrow hemmer, shirring foot, adjustable zipper foot.

Automatic zig-zagger with seven cams.

The zig-zagger, the original 4 cams, and 3 out of 4 of an additional set.
The general rap on the boards about automatic zig-zaggers is that they are an amusing toy, but that if you want to zig-zag you should buy a zig-zag sewing machine.  I have road-tested two of these zig-zaggers in the last week and I was pleasantly surprised by the quite decent quality of the zig-zag stitch and the scallop.  You can use the scallop as a blind hem stitch.  Zig-zag and blind hem are the two most useful extra construction stitches you can have, and this attachment transforms the straight-stitch 301. 

It works in much the same way as the buttonholer:  arm up over the needlebar screw, attaches just like any presser foot.  The motion of the needle up and down makes it go.  It moves the fabric back and forth, again in the same way as the buttonholer.  Unlike the buttonholer (feed dogs down), you leave the feed dogs up, which means that you can control the stitch density with the stitch length lever on the sewing machine.  You can also control stitch width with a setting on the side of the attachment--yet another similarity with the buttonholer.

Functional stitches (zig-zag, blind hem):  just fine.  Decorative stitches, not so much.  But I ran these up in a hurry.

And speaking of putting the feed dogs up and down, this is ridiculously easy on a 301.  It's really easy to change the bobbins, too, which is good because they are not very big--same size as the Featherweight bobbins.

Flip the bed extension up and you have access to the bobbin.  Turn the knob to the right to raise or lower the feed dogs.
And speaking of buttonholers:  The Pink Jetson

A slant shank Singer buttonholer, affectionately nicknamed the Pink Jetson for obvious reasons.  Obvious to anyone of ripe and mature years anyway.

There is a Green Jetson also---that one is for low shank machines.

Most of the cam buttonholers are mechanically identical, and most of them, of most brands, were made by Greist.  You do need to have the right shank style.

Five cams make five different sizes of buttonhole
If you have never used a Greist buttonholer you probably hate making buttonholes.  If you have used a buttonholer like this and did not enjoy it, next time use stabilizer--not interfacing, stabilizer.  With a firm foundation these make lovely buttonholes in the twinkle of an eye.

It's original case, funky vintage charm.

Sturdy case, handle and latches seem secure.  The rule of thumb about vintage cases (never, ever trust them as carrying cases) probably does not apply in this case.  First of all, this is a seriously sturdy suitcase-type case.  Mostly though its because the 301 is aluminum (16 pounds) rather than the cast iron of other vintage machines (40 pounds).
Entirely functional, but certainly not in mint condition

I always glance over the suitcases in thrift shops, hoping to spot this trapezoidal shape.  No luck so far.

There is a bracket inside for the motor controller.  It's identical to the brackets in Singer cabinets.

I think the bracket in the upper right is for an oil can.  If you know, drop a line below.

The machine fits neatly into the case.  Note the wooden piece bottom right that holds it in place.  It won't slide around in there.

The space above that wooden brace is just right for the attachments box.  And since it does not have an oil can, the zigzagger fits in there also.

This machine, the case and all the goodies except the buttonholer (I added that) had one previous owner.  I bought it from her daughter, and I don't really consider myself an owner.  I'm just the spa treatment before it moves on to a new owner. 

The daughter told me that this machine was her mom's pride and joy and that she took good care of it.  It has obviously been well used (see the bed wear) but was also obviously well maintained--very clean inside.  It had been sitting unused for decades, but it has now been cleaned, oiled and lubed and turns very smoothly and makes the beautiful stitch that this model is known for.

I love all of the all-metal vintage and antique sewing machines that pass through my hands. I want them all to go to good homes, but really what I want is for each person to have the sewing machine that is the perfect machine for her or him.

The 301 is very popular among vintage-sewing-machine-loving quilters for its beautiful straight stitch and its portability.  Just a few pounds more than that adorable but oh-too-trendy half size machine but the 301 has a full size bed.  So this machine would be perfect for a quilter looking for complete functionality and lots of original vintage goodies but who does not care about cosmetic perfection.  And who wants to be on the cutting edge of vintage:  301 aficionados claim that this is the next big thing.  If only they had that cuteness factor...