Sunday, December 30, 2012

Isn't She Lovely! Isn't She Beautiful!

 Well it has been a couple of months now since I came across a vintage Singer I wanted to buy.   I guess everyone has been too busy with the holidays to drag out old sewing machines and offer them for sale. But finally...this!   

She is a little bit special because she is a Centennial Featherweight (circa 1951).  

 And she came with lots of good stuff

Case is in very good condition too

But here's the deal:  Somebody has to find a new home, I will not hoard sewing machines!  Even if I could afford to do it, which I can't, I wouldn't collect several of any given model, it's just not my style. But I am feeling just the teensiest temptation to keep this one and sell my 1956 model.    

Hmmmm.....I don't know.  One of them will be going to a new home and I'll have to sleep on it before I decide. A couple of years ago I bought a Centennial 15-91 which I resold rather than replace the 15-91 handed down to me by my mom.   

They are both beautiful...but who stays and who goes?

So why, you may ask, do I keep buying these Featherweights only to turn around and sell them?  Yes, I make a small profit, but considering the time I spend hunting, searching, retrieving, researching, repairing, restoring, cleaning, tuning, adjusting, photographing, listing, etc., etc. it really isn't a money maker.  I basically just make enough money to support my sewing habit and finance my fabric, notions, patterns and the vintage attachments I covet.   So while the few extra dollars helps, that is only part of the story.  Mainly I just can't resist the siren call of a beautiful vintage Singer for sale on Craigslist (at a steal of a price!)  I love the thrill of going to get them, bringing them home and playing with them before finding them a new home.  Every one is just a little bit different and I learn something new with each one.  The little "goodies" that often come along for the ride are part of the thrill as well.   

So....who will stay and who will go to a new home?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Few Little Goodies and an Ode to Casablanca

It doesn't take much to make me happy - well at least as far as my sewing goes.

A few little goodies and it is like Christmas Day.   :)  The main score was the set of coveted blue cams for my Singer Automatic ZigZagger

Yay!  Now I have all 16 stitch patterns!  The blue and yellow sets are the most difficult/expensive to come by.  I obtained the yellow set from a generous PR member a while back.  (I mention PR, aka Pattern Review, frequently because I've met such nice people there.)   Don't remember where I obtained the Red Set #2 (!?)  The blue one was a pretty good price on eBay and I have been looking out for it.   I made a little money with my recent Featherweight sales, so this is my little gift to myself.  


I have purchased the White Set #2 on eBay and I'm just waiting for delivery

There is a little confusion about Set #2 so I will explain:  It seems that the older/original Set #2 was red just like the Set #1 that comes with the ZZ-er.  Then sometime later, Set #2 was changed to white BUT was still the same stitch patterns.  Set #3 is blue, Set #4 is yellow.  So there are four sets of stitch patterns - 16 stitches in all - yet there are two different colors of Set #2.

All this is to say that I will now have TWO Set #2's - completely redundant and unnecessary, except that wouldn't any collector want both?  I ask you? Yeah, I thought so...   ;)

Next little goodies came after an exhausting trip down every single aisle of an Antique Mall looking for random sewing notions.  Honestly the very last booth at the end of the very last aisle had a bin of random patterns and notions.  I spent $1.38 for a tattered 1940's pattern and a handful of vintage rick-rack.

Now rick-rack is just fun, isn't it?  Especially for any kind of vintage style sewing, you've gotta have rick-rack.  And you'll find out when shopping for it that it just isn't exactly the same today.  For one thing, if you have some true vintage fabrics, it is going to be hard to match those colors with the choices we have in the fabric store.  1940's-1950's rick-rack is obviously going to reflect the color scheme of the era and match the contemporary fabrics.  Also, it was 100% cotton back in the day.  I don't know if that makes it "better", per se, but it is more true to the period.  If I'm making an apron or a little girl's dress with a vintage cotton print there is nothing like vintage rick-rack for the ultimate finishing touch.  

I picked up this beat up old pattern 

Simply because it reminded me somewhat of this:
A big sigh for one of my all time favorite movies, and Ingrid Bergman's wardrobe-to-die-for.  SIGH....
Not that I will make this jumper.  Alas, I am not long and willowy like Miss Bergman. This dress on me, in my size, and in white no less, would make me look like Nurse Ratched.  But a girl can dream, yes?

I also love The Paisley Blouse.

Let me just say that a dream project for me would be to make this blouse.  I have found patterns that were close enough to adapt, but I cannot find a fabric that will work.  I have looked at pages of paisley fabrics until they started to all blur together like a batch of sperm in a Petri dish (sorry for the image that may have evoked, but am I right?)   When I have found a print that was close enough in color and style, it would invariably be a home dec fabric.  I need a very soft challis, I think, but just can't find it with this particular print.

Maybe I will wax eloquent about Casablanca at length in another post, but for now...

"It seems that destiny has taken a hand..."

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Little Featherweight Love

So, it's been a while.  Had a couple of weeks worth of Featherweight Frenzy and now things have settled back down.

 Here's the deal:  I just can't pass up one of these for sale at any affordable price.   I have my own Featherweight that I use and honest-to-goodness that is enough for me.  But I see these little machines offered for sale here and there at less than market value and I just gotta take them home with me.   They never stay long - I don't hoard them, I find them new homes.  In the meantime I enjoy playing with them and making their acquaintance.

The two who passed through recently couldn't be more different.

Here you have a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L 1952 Singer 221 in nearly pristine condition.

I love the Celtic knot decals, and all the visible screws are black, something I haven't seen before, and I think it looks so elegant. She sews as well as she looks.  

So this machine stayed with me a few days and quickly found a new home via eBay.  (I hear that her new owner is very pleased!)

Then on the other hand was the machine I introduced in a recent post.  A 1937 in dreadful condition:
That is a picture of it partially disassembled.  I proceeded to remove every bit and piece of this machine and sold it all off on eBay.  Just like with a recent 15-91 that I parted out, these parts sold like hotcakes!  It is always a little sad to reduce a machine to an organ donor, but I consider that other machines can go on to give more years of service because they got original replacement parts that they needed.  This machine was neglected, worn, dirty and greasy.  I had to struggle just to get her running (as shown in previous post.)  

But she had some beautiful parts such as the early type scrolled face plate

I spent a brief moment considering dressing up my own 1956 Featherweight with this beautiful plate, but then I just couldn't do it. With its more modern prism type decals, it looked as ridiculous as a woman in a dress like THIS wearing a hat like THIS

So the face plate was sold (that alone brought more than I paid for the entire machine!) along with every single part including the stripped down machine head itself. Without giving exact amounts, let me just say that the total of all the parts far exceeded what the machine by itself would have sold for. 

Just to top off my Featherweight Frenzy, I whipped up a new case cover.  (And BTW, matching chevron at the seams is not for sissies.)

Vintage Images courtesy of

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Most Beautiful 100 Year Old I've Ever Seen!

No, it's not an old Singer this time!   This is my Grandma who celebrates her 100th birthday today.   Grandma was born October 31, 1912, the year the Titanic sank - imagine that!   She grew up on a farm, so even though her childhood was in the early 20th Century, she lived more like Laura Ingalls than Mrs. Thomas Edison.  Their family's farmhouse had no electricity or running water, they had a well and an outhouse. Their transportation was a wagon and a mule.  She can remember seeing her first car and first airplane when she was maybe 10 years old.

Grandma married when she was almost 19, my grandfather at the time was 17....and no, that's not a typo.  He only had a sixth grade education because he dropped out of school to work when his father died so he was a man before his time.   He went on to become a very successful businessman and the beloved Mayor of their town in South Georgia.   He became very involved in politics so my little country girl grandma ended up rubbing elbows with all the most illustrious Georgia politicians in the 1960's and 1970's.   She and my grandfather were even invited to Jimmy Carter's inaugural ball, but they declined (I can't remember why.)  They also did some traveling abroad - quite a stretch for a girl who remembers seeing the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk (okay, a little exaggeration there, but not much!  LOL)

When my grandpa was about to retire in the late 1970's, they built their "dream home".  Fairly well off by local standards - remember this was small town Georgia - they built a lovely redwood home on the marsh with screened porches all around.  My grandma grew up sleeping on porches in the summer time because of course there was no AC.  When I asked her one time how hot and uncomfortable it was before AC, she answered, "Well, it just didn't seem as hot back then, at least not so's you'd notice".   In the dream house my grandma would have nothing but a wood burning cookstove - that big cast iron thing like you see at Cracker Barrel.  Unbelievably they were actually able to locate a new wood stove that she cooked on  - no electric range, no microwave, no dishwasher - for the next 20 years.  Of course they could afford all those luxuries but she didn't want them.

Grandma is a tiny woman, less than 5 feet tall and 100 lbs, but she'd kill a rattlesnake with a hoe all in a day's work.  She'd go after a rat with a shovel or a broom.  She ate bacon, lard, butter, pork and whole milk all her life and has enjoyed nearly perfect health.   I've visited her at the nursing home and seen her pushing the wheelchair of a woman 20 years younger.  She spends more time in her own wheelchair now because she is frail and unsteady on her feet, but she can get up and about when she needs to.  Otherwise she insists on wheeling it herself - to keep up her strength, she says.  And this is the God's Honest Truth, she still has all her teeth!  Coffee stained (she LOVES coffee) but strong, straight, healthy teeth.   She reads and does crossword puzzles and "rules" the little nursing home where she has lived the last five years only because the family didn't want her alone at home all day.

Longevity runs in her family, there have been a number of centenarians in the last few generations.  Her own mother lived to 103, her grandfather to 107 and a great-aunt was still working in her garden, so the story goes, at 111.   Grandma's sister "died young" at 97.

(Note:  Sadly, for me, being adopted I did not inherit these genes.  But my mom did, and will probably outlive me if this trend continues.)

In keeping with the theme of this blog, this is the part where I'm supposed to say that I grew up to the clackety clack of Grandma sewing on her old treadle Singer.  But actually I can't remember ever seeing her sew on a machine.  What I did see her do, decade after decade, was this:
These towels are old and have been washed many, many times.  I grew up knowing no other linens except those edged in crochet by my Grandma.  All 12 grandchildren received a heap of these for every birthday and Christmas for our Hope Chest.  I have a linen closet full of these even after 30+ years of marriage and stacks of them still turn up every now and then that had been put aside for someone or other even though she had to give this up 10-15 years ago because of her arthritis. I was inspired by her to continue the art, and while not prolific, I do these myself once in a while:

So today I abandon theme to say Happy Birthday to my Grandma.  She is one of my favorite people in the whole world.

Cook of wonderful Southern meals:  Her recipe for biscuits begins with, "You take a chunk of lard about the size of your fist and you work it down into the flour, like this..."  She thinks pasta of any kind is a strange, exotic dish and usually mispronounces it as "potsa".

Teller of hilarious homespun stories:  "Papa used to keep an old bullfrog in the well to eat the mosquitoes.  Sometimes he'd come up in the bucket, but we'd just take him out and throw him back in.  The frog, that is, not Papa."

Spoiler and nurturer of children:  The family doctor once gave her a list of foods she needed to feed her daughters who were quite small for their age.  Breakfast, for example, was foods like cereal, toast, eggs, grits, bacon, pancakes, oatmeal, etc.   After a few days of cooking every single thing on the list, she called him back in frustration and told him, "My girls just can't eat all that.  By the time we get through breakfast, they can't eat another bite for the rest of the day!"

Devoted wife:  My grandpa never lifted a finger around the house and that's the way she wanted it.  She lovingly and happily doted on him every day of his life and she still misses him to this day (he died in 1983.)

Closet comedienne: During a particularly tedious reception at a political event, my Grandma started answering the question "How are you?" with things like, "Oh, just terrible, the house burned down today" to see who was really paying attention.  The response was usually, "That's nice!"

Person who broke every food safety rule on the planet and lived 100 years to tell about it:  "Oh, honey, that mold won't hurt you.  You just scrape it off and eat the rest" when we'd find green leftovers in the refrigerator.  Or she'd cover up the remains of our Thanksgiving dinner - meat, gravy, casseroles - and leave it out on the counter all day so we could just dig in again at supper time.  No one ever got sick from this!

She has lived a simple life, a humble life, and a happy life.  She is still smiling today and says she feels 25 years old.  What a woman!  

UPDATE: October 31, 2013.  Grandma is 101 and still going strong!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My $50 Trick - or - You Learn Something New Every Day

I have posted the pretty ones, the success stories.  Only fair I post the ones that didn't work out so well.  1935 Featherweight - $50.   It's no beauty, true, it shows every bit of it's age.  But when I brought it home it DID work although I only ran it a few seconds before taking it all apart.  (I'm always afraid of running a dirty, long idle machine before cleaning it.)

After dismantling, cleaning, oiling, lubing and reassembling, I found it was seized up.  And maybe someone can tell me why this happens, but it seems to happen frequently, the same scenario. 

  1. Machine runs initially
  2. I take it apart, clean it and oil it
  3. I put it back together again
  4. It is frozen up and won't budge

As my disclaimer says, I am not a sewing machine repair expert.  I just fiddle around and almost always get them humming - at least from the standpoint that nothing was fundamentally wrong with them to begin with.  (One exception, I did manage to successfully replace the gear set on a 1970's Stylist.)  

As I mentioned in another post, I have always been able to "work it out" when this happens and at some point reach the magic moment when it breaks free.  I love that moment!  But it didn't look like that was going to happen here.  This was seized up so tightly that I couldn't move the arm AT ALL.  I mean it could have been bolted into place so tight it was.  The hand wheel would just spin around the arm shaft, and I kept tightening up the stop motion screw trying to get a grip.  Finally I removed the hand wheel and used a vise grip (with a rubber jar opener) to try and turn it.   Nothing.  

So my $50 trick is this:

Because a very smart PR friend put me onto it.  (She also suggested baking it in the oven, but fortunately I didn't have to go that far!)   It sounded too easy to be true, but I took her suggestion, spent a few minutes blow drying it until the entire machine was quite warm - aluminum heats up quickly - and EUREKA!  After a few creaky turns it spun freely.  

Before I heated this up, it would not budge!


I suppose somehow I caused some kind of damage when trying to turn the wheel because now although everything runs (the motor turns the belt, which turns the wheel) the wheel won't turn the shaft.  I tried using another clutch washer but it didn't make any difference so it's not that.  

So here's the deal.  I now have a pretty nice case, except for one broken latch, which is full of FW parts which I will sell/save for replacement parts.  I have a nice belt (an original Singer belt in great condition) and a light bulb which I can use on my other machine.  I have a bobbin case and an Egyptian scrolled face plate which I will sell on eBay.  Undoubtedly will recoup my investment there.  AND.....

I have a new $50 trick up my sleeve!  (Thanks, Andrea!)  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What Can You Get For $20 Today?

Well, you can get a pair of cheap shoes at Target - barely.  Lunch for two at Jason's Deli.  Not quite two movie tickets.  A discounted bestseller.  What else?  Anybody?

How about THIS!

Yep, $20 for a 15-91 in perfect working order in a beautiful #40 Singer cabinet (no stool, though).  And what's even more amazing than the price is that this machine sat all weekend at an Estate Sale with a $20 sticker and was never sold.  I saw an ad on CL where they were selling off the remaining items, including this.  REALLY?  In fact when I called the seller and offered to buy it, he said in a doubtful voice, "Are you planning to try to use it, or do you just want it as an antique?"  Heck yeah, I (or whoever I sell it to) will use it!  This is a great machine.

(This had belonged to a family member, the seller had no clue.)

The thing is, this machine had been extremely well cared for and seemed to have been in use fairly recently - maybe within the last few years.  My forensics yielded the following clues:
New Red Spool Felts - already on it

Freshly wound bobbin with clean thread - not the rat's nest you usually find in an old machine.

New Bobbin Winder Tire already there

Hard to see, but nice clean lube cups with fresh lubricant inside

It was very dusty so it had been sitting a while.
But no lint, crud or corrosion
Doesn't it look like a well cared for machine?  The cabinet was also perfectly clean except for dust.
Lovely, yes?  The crud on the carpet is the dust I brushed out of  it.
Here is why I think it didn't sell.  It had no power cord or controller.  This is obviously a machine that has been in use until fairly recently, it hasn't been moldering away in a garage under a tarp for 40 years.  It is a clean, well maintained machine installed in a cabinet but with the power cord and controller removed and the pin block screwed back into place - so this wasn't haphazard (not like a portable machine where the power/controller lead is simply misplaced.)   It is a MYSTERY!!!  But mostly likely that it why no one else bought it - their loss.  I just happen to have a power cord for it, although I don't have a controller.  I can buy one for $15-$20.

I was *almost* disappointed how little attention this machine needed, but I still did my standard strip down/clean/oil/lube routine.  That is always fun for me.

Love this syringe for oiling!
Even the external wiring is in surprisingly good condition, the insulation is intact as far as the eye can see, and inside the pin block the connections look good - good contacts, nice and clean, with no deterioration.   Do I want to bust inside that motor and take a look?  NO.   Everything I can see looks sound, there was no visible crudded up old lubricant in the cups, the carbon brushes look fine.  Let's just assume that the wiring inside is acceptable based on the external clues and leave well enough alone for now.

Forgot to take pics in the thrill of the moment (LOL) but I did take apart and reassemble the tension.  The one and only part I had to replace was the tension take up spring and I just happened to have one on hand (Thank You, Jenny at Sew Classic for keeping me in parts!)

So how does she run ?  Perfectly, how else?   She is a beautiful, well cared for 1953 Singer 15-91 and is ready to make someone a very happy quilter/seamstress.  

UPDATE:  Put an ad on CL last night, sold it this morning for my asking price!

The buyer is a repeat customer, the same guy who bought the 201 with leprosy I fixed up this summer.  He said he LOVES that machine and here he is buying another one.  BIG SMILE for this  :) :) :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Re-Purposing Vintage Linens and Hankies

A couple of projects on the fly this morning just 'cause I was in the mood to sort through my pretty vintage linens and see what I could do with some of them.  (Fall brings out the Project Queen in most of us, doesn't it?)

I had three quilt squares that came along for the ride when I bought a sewing machine a few months ago.  Two were finished, one not quite.  Now I DO NOT quilt (I'll talk about that later...maybe!)  But these were kind of nice with some true vintage fabrics - maybe 50 years old or more.   There is really only one thing you can make with random squares like that:
Yep, a pillow.  I just happened to have some unbleached muslin on hand for the back, just happened to have a pillow form the exact size of the square and just happened to have VINTAGE ZIPPERS!  

I have tons of these collected from my various yard sales, Estate sales, etc.  It only seemed fitting to use a 1950's zipper with this project.

And yes that is "vintage" thread in the sewing machine!  

Useless little project, I suppose, but took me 20 minutes and got at least one of those quilt squares out to be seen.  Then I looked at my growing pile of vintage hankies and not being quite brave enough to sew them into anything - yet - I put some lemon verbena in a piece of tulle and tied it up in a hankie.

Oh, and yes, that is a new sewing basket I bought at an Estate Sale this weekend - wait did I not just swear off Estate Sales to get my addiction under control?  *Ooops* I guess I fell off the wagon!

Another vintage hankie (no cutting, no sewing) made into a giant pincushion.  This was made with a wonderful round hankie, you don't see many of those.  I filled a little fishbowl with wooden spools, topped with a styrofoam ball and some fiberfill.  Good for big quilting pins and never gets misplaced!

And for another "No Sew" project, I made a little lavender pillow.  Sewed lavender buds into tulle, sprinkled on a little lavender oil

Wrapped it up

Tied it with ribbon and added a button

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Little Princess (indulge me on this!)

Okay, insufferably cute pictures...I don't do this often but after all the sewing on the costume, I think I'm entitled just this once!  Two year old Princess models her gown while her three year old cousin "measures up the hem".   (a budding tailor?)

After I hemmed the skirt, she wanted the dress back on and wore it the rest of the day.  "I'm Snow White, I'm Snow White!"  

And my little man got his own costume, a generic "Power Ranger" from a fifty cent pattern I picked up at the thrift store.  (He will have a store bought mask with it.)

Whew!  Did I mention I still have a size 1/2 Cinderella costume to make???