Saturday, September 24, 2016

Vintage Love

I never get tired of playing with my vintage machines or hunting for new ones.  I look at the contemporary models that do with a touch of a button what I have to do manually - like adjust stitch length/width and tension.  They have automatic threading, needle up/down features, hundreds of stitches, and automatic buttonholes.  They have cute little storage compartments for sewing feet and flashing LED displays. They promise to make sewing FUN and EASY.  But don't appeal to me at all.

Finally I put my finger on it: they don't just don't have the character of the beloved older machines.

Compare them to vintage cars, for example:

Retro Cool   vs.   Ho-Hum





This is without even taking into account that every machine on the left still WORKS, while those on the right will be toast in just a few years.  (Even if the cars are still running, their computerized systems will be obsolete, and no one is going to want to restore them like the ones on the left - because why would they?)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Still On the Prowl, But Not Having Much Luck

As I mentioned in my last post, I have found that the vintage Singer sewing machines I covet are getting harder and harder to come by at the give-away prices I used to find.  I guess the secret is out!

Anyone who has followed my blog knows that

1. I don't hoard machines, and

2. I don't buy/sell them solely to make money.

Its a hobby, and the little bit of profit I gain just goes back into the hobby.  Whatever I make from buying a machine, fixing it up, and re-selling it goes towards the vintage sewing notions, attachments, and fabrics that I actually use.

Here is just one example of a one-of-a-kind item made from a piece of random, repurposed vintage print fabric:
Seriously, now, how cute is this?  I bought the piece of fabric at an antique store for a few dollars and the size and shape of it (it is identical on both sides) could be nothing but a tote bag.  I added my own decorative stitching around the print and a button from my collection.

Back to the machines: I have had two experiences lately which gives me an idea of where the trend is heading.  I subscribe to and the advantage is that it gives me a heads-up on sales and includes photos and lists of the items. That way I can save time skipping sales that don't have what I'm looking for.

The disadvantage is that they don't list the prices up front.  So last week I saw one of these pictured at a sale.
(Not the actual machine I saw)

Now while I haven't particularly wanted a white Featherweight, I had to go take a look.  Best case scenario I bring it home, have a blast playing with it for a while, then find it a new home and replenish my hobby fund.

I drove 20 miles to get to the sale at 8:30 and I was the second person in line.  The man ahead of me was there for - you guessed it - the white Featherweight.  But then we saw the price - $495!  That is at least the full asking price you see on eBay so I took a pass.  When I left the sale, I heard the other shopper trying to talk it down to $250.

This week I saw a Rocketeer 503 in the cool modern table with the brass tipped legs like this:
(not the actual one I saw)

Once again,  I got to the sale at 8:30.  Again I was second in line but this time it was the guy behind me who was there for the sewing machine.  (I'm not fighting other women for these machines, its the men who are after them!) This one was priced at $125, which is also about fair market value but not in my budget so I deferred to the other seller.

What I'm seeing in this trend, then, is that these machines are being used as bait to get buyers to the sale (and it clearly works.)  Its also clear that Estate Sale professionals are doing their homework and asking top dollar.  But it was only 3-4 years ago that I was picking these up for $40 or $50.

What I want to know, is how did everyone suddenly catch on to this?  ;)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Back to Estate Sales - Sigh...

Not much going on with the historical sewing at the moment - not since the mock up of the Regency gown I made.  More on that later, I hope.

But now that I have graduated - and have yet to find a job - I have time go get back to my vintage treasure hunting hobby for a while.  One thing I have noticed is that good vintage Singer sewing machines at dirt cheap prices are getting harder and harder to find.  (Or maybe I've already cleaned out my immediate area!)  But I'm still always on the lookout for interesting old notions, attachments, or other sewing supplies.  The pickings have been slim this summer but today I did find this great cache of vintage Coats & Clark silk buttonhole twist:

With the original boxes, too!

Seriously, aren't these threads gorgeous?

I didn't buy them to resell, but I looked on Etsy and eBay and found that these spools sell for $3-$4 EACH, and I got three dozen of them for $2 TOTAL!  

For another $1, I got the Tidee Maid vintage thread box and a cool scallop ruler/template.  

I have several of these thread boxes, and they are great for hand sewing.  It works as a dispenser, where the thread comes out a little slot on the side and is cut along a metal edge, kind of like a dental floss container.

I got all this for less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks, so I'm happy  :)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

History + Sewing = Fun Job

I haven't posted much lately because I've been so busy finishing up my degree in American History and my Public History Certificate.  This involves heavy reading and writing - including a 34-page Senior Thesis - so sewing is an indulgence I've had to forego until now.

Everyone asks me, "what are you going to do with a history degree?"  My answer:  "I dunno..."

But this summer I found an internship that might set me on an interesting free-lance career path. Working at the local history center, I am making costumes for historical interpretation sketches and reproduction garments for living history exhibits.  These are made from patterns that are drafted from extant garments for authenticity.

For example, here is one of the patterns I will be making for the 1820's era:
I have started out this project by making a mock-up just to see how it all goes together and how it fits. This was clearance fabric, not the color or style I would choose for the real dress, but it gives an idea of the fit which is even better than I expected (although I came up a little short on fabric so it isn't as long as the real dress will be.)  In this mock-up, I just ran it up on the machine but the actual working garment will be at least partly hand sewn - maybe entirely, I'm not sure yet.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My New Toy - Singer Deluxe Monogrammer

There is nothing that relieves the stresses of hectic everyday life like a little time out to play with my sewing toys.  For some reason I decided I must get a Singer Deluxe Monogrammer.  Then I decided I must collect as many of the letter cams as possible.

Then, of course, I had to justify buying these new toys by using them on a project.  :)

I will preface this by saying that I am using the monogrammer on my "new" old Singer 503.  And by that I mean that I bought a second 503 on CL for $20 and it was beat up and shabby but actually sewed better than my shiny, perfect 503.  I have a post about those machines HERE.

So I bought this attachment on eBay along with all the letter cams I could find.  Usually the attachments listed come with the three letters that the original user was given when they bought it back in the early 1970s, I guess.  So my fellow collectors will totally understand that I bought TWO of these attachments in order to get the different cams I wanted!

           And here it is attached to the machine.  Just like you'd attach the automatic buttonholer.

(You can see how nicked and dinged up this 503 is, but you know it sews great if I was willing to swap it for the cosmetically perfect model)

I bought a cheap denim jacket at Target, and my Rocketeer quickly stitched up a perfect monogram and flower motif.

If you zoom in on these, you can see just how perfect the stitching is.

Yes I know there are embroidery machines out there that  can download multiple fonts, all the letters and designs you want, and stitch them up with no attachments. But honestly, what is the fun in that?  :)

I also experimented with an old hand towel just to see how it would do.  The machine stitched this easily as well.  I'd probably choose a wider stitch next time (like the one I used on the jacket) so it would stand out more against the textured terry cloth.  But even so, how cool is this.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Singer Cabinet Addiction (Is There a 12 Step Program?)

Well, I bought another cabinet.  Every time I buy another cabinet or another machine, I am convinced that THIS is "the one."  But really and truly, this is the one.  I promise.  

Three or four years ago I sold a Singer #42 cabinet that I had bought at an estate sale and I regretted it ever since.  It was so beautiful!  Now there are two different versions of this cabinet.  The one I sold is the earlier model which looks just like this except it has three separate drawers on the right rather than the curved panel that swings out.  And in the top left drawer it has a built-in ink well and pencil tray which is just the coolest thing ever. 

This one has a spool rack in the left hand drawer rather than the ink well.  

Swinging panel opens to reveal two drawers and a shelf for storing patterns.  

Like all mid-century Singer cabinets, this is actually a fine piece of furniture.  Look at the back!  This isn't cheap particle board facing the wall, it is all solid wood.

But the best part is that this version of the #42 cabinet can take my Singer 301 - my favorite machine.  They look great together because they both have similar Art Deco styling. 
(The earlier version of this cabinet cannot accept the 301)
(PS...after taking this photo, I installed the controller in the cabinet to use with the knee lever)

So I have a new card table for my Featherweight.  I have the "ultimate" cabinet for my 301.  I put my Rocketeer in the cabinet previously occupied by the 301.  All is well in my Vintage Singer Sewing World.  :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Some Catching Up To Do!

Wow, I haven't been here in forever (I have been chained to my books).  But now I have a few weeks to catch up and putter around with my sewing machines again.

This week I answered a Craigslist ad:  "Two machines for $40".  One was a Singer 503 Rocketeer.
It is slightly more dinged up than my own 503, but once I took it apart, cleaned and oiled it, it actually runs faster and smoother and makes a nicer stitch.

Singer 503 Rocketeer rescued from a filthy garage and coaxed back into working order.  It does really beautiful stitching!

One of the little "goodies" that came along for the ride was this zigzagger that isn't like any I've ever seen before - a no name "Made in Japan" attachment for low shank.
Each cam is about the size of a quarter and has TWO stitch patterns. Compare to the Singer Automatic zigzagger and its ginormous cams!

Super nice zigzag, satin stitching and decorative stitching on my Featherweight and super easy

Its much "daintier" than the big Singer attachment - better for the Featherweight

Here it is stitching on my Featherweight.  Its not something I'll probably ever actually use, but it is cool just to have it.  And it will fit in my FW case along with all 14 stitch patterns!

PS  ....
(The other machine was a Kenmore 158.13200 that isn't working at all and not something I really want to fool with. I will recycle it.)