Tag Archives: sewing machines

Randomly, at the very end of the year

As usual, I stay away from too much reflection (remorse?) of the past year, and resolution-making for the new year.

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Yep, that just about sums things up… #2017bestnine

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I have a few things in mind with a fairly strong commitment to finish or frog, several small house projects that still need to be wrapped up (I’m still looking at you, you bastard threshold!), but things will start growing again, and it will all be a busy blur once more.

I haven’t been sewing much recently except for a few minor clothing repairs/alterations. For the past couple of years I’ve also been drawn to hand-pieced things, but the bigger reality is that up until yesterday all but one (the one I keep ready for repairs) of my sewing machines were on time-outs which usually magically fixes them, but my luck finally ran out on that practice. (I’ve also had the on again, off again issue of work space, but that’s usually my own messy fault, and/or access issues for home repair.)

So though I intended on working on the long-ignored quilt above yesterday, I set up one machine, sewed three inches, got a snarling bobbin tangle, got out another and got another thready mess, got out another and forgot it needed a serious greasing instead of a little oil and also couldn’t find the spool pin I just found again for it, thought about checking out another, but it was two floors up and in a closet, and didn’t bother getting out the other two that need to be re-wired.

So I took a nap.

But it was a quick one, and I spent the next hour or two cleaning, oiling, and futzing with the goddamn tension to get it to behave. It’s still not great, but it’s mostly holding two pieces of fabric together now.

I hope to finish the quilt? It has a few weird memories from the last time I spend a good chunk of time on it, I really hate the quilting part of quilts – at least big ones, and it doesn’t really go with our decor so to speak, but I’ve got everything I need to finish it (provided the machines behave) and as an amalgam of stuff, it will easier to store and of course use, as a finished thing. So we’ll see.

And I don’t really need to buy any yarn again this year – I’m still spinning the last of a big wad of Jacob – and perhaps finally got a good chain-plying action going on. The only new yarn I might shop around for is reflective stuff.

I knit up this hat out of Red Heart for N. It’s not warm enough, it felt gross (though soft) to knit, and I’m dubious the wear will make it worthwhile for hand work. But he walks the dog in the dawn dark and we walk on country roads, so we need things with a ramped up visibility factor. I also have a spool of the reflective filament that can be held with any yarn too, but it was a little pricey I think, and/or the yarn was cheaper- I can’t remember now, and I think I was concerned about yarn dominance and loosing the thread in something wooly, so then I need to experiment with using it in duplicate stitch or as embroidery… something along those lines. And I’m also playing with some ideas for using it on dog accessories.

Has anyone else worked with this stuff?

And then I’m still finding myself drawn to miniature stuff – I’m oddly mildly traumatized by home renovations/repairs these days, so maybe it’s a psychological thing in that I  actually want to feel in control and spend almost nothing (but time) on a renovation project, even if it is just my childhood dollhouse to get over it?

Eh, we’ll see on that one too –

Happy New Year!

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Failures and fluff

I still haven’t gotten the hand-cranked Singer up to speed – I was waiting to order more cleaning/greasing supplies (and the blasted always forgotten spool pin) until I knew I didn’t need anything else…

Because another sewing machine came home with me.

There was a label on it that read: “works, needs new belt.”

I cleaned the case and the machine, picked out the motor belt and other belt that I thought I might need, and just before I placed my order, I figured I should plug it in…

The light works, the motor is blown.

But whatever – it was only $12, I didn’t need it, (and why didn’t I test it at the store like I usually do?) but I have it now, and perhaps I’ll try to replace the motor, or perhaps I’ll take it right back to ReStore – only with proper identification of its faults this time.  It’s also a bit young for my machine tastes, but it is the next version of my mom’s sewing machine, and it’s got a zigzag (I just have one machine that can do that now), and it actually dates to around the years of me, so there’s a bit of a nostalgia thing going – if I get it back up and running, perhaps I can go whole-hog authentic on my ’70s quilt (that I haven’t started yet).

*************

In a moment of frustration and brain failure a few weeks ago, I took a break to make a cheery pompom.

I thought I knew how to make pompoms, but like the sewing machine, some shit from the 70s doesn’t work anymore…

I’m not enamored/charmed/giggleful with them, and I certainly didn’t embrace their bombastic return a few years ago, but I have some thoughts on their usefulness now that may or may not come to fruition.

And I wouldn’t mind topping a hat with one, once in a while…

But a second try (and a video) brought success.

Now I just need to control myself from trimming them down to nothing…

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What Phil* had to say

It’s a bit disorienting to be in February and have only been through an extended mud season – mud from rain, not snow (except for a tiny bit). I don’t mind a mild winter per se, but the ticks haven’t died (have I already bitched about the ticks still hanging on – on the dog – this winter?) and I’m sure the garden’s not-frozen foes are planning their evil attacks…

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Go back to sleep! #january #itsnotspringyet

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But there is still ample time for a blizzard or two, so I’ll shut the hell up.

Thanks to N with his speedy PVC erection skills, we’re good to go with seed starting this year – just need the electrician to add a plug, and a few more supplies.

feb-grow

The signs of spring are urging us to eat up last summer’s bounty – we’ve barely touched the frozen veg, but we’re down to just one butternut, and the last of the juicy peak of season blueberries made their way into a pie.

None of my current knitting projects wrapped up by the end of January, so they’ll be finished when they are – soon, likely, for the socks, and I have to really force myself on the sweater – I need the needles from it though (to start another likely long-suffering, but less painful to knit sweater) so that might be the needed kick to the finish line.

I put the hand crank on the Singer red eye.

feb-crank

And it will hopefully be awesome – now, not so much – the machine is far more gummed up than I thought and the movement is sluggish (I think I last used it in 1999? and it’s been in and out of basements and storage units) – and I have to learn a bit more about disassembling parts and well-greasing and whatnot. “Fixing” old sewing machines for me has just been a good wipe down, oiling, and replacing a missing part or two, so it’s time I get a few more mechanical skills on that front – and at some point, I’d like to be able to restore the finish and whatnot, but maybe not – I want to use these machines, not look at them being pretty.

*as in Punxsutawney.

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Dirty old things

We’ve got a decent ReStore nearby – luckily not too close or I’d go too often, but not too far that you have to plan to go. We had an entirely awesome architectural salvage store in our old city that I dearly miss, but still visit when passing through, and though this doesn’t replace it, in some ways it’s more practical because it carries a wider variety of smaller-scaled items (and I’m no longer in the market for a victorian mantle anyway). We found a good mid-century dresser there, a near-mint wool kilim rug, and the typical bits we usually bring home from thrift stores like records and books and fabric scraps.

On my last visit, I scored an old sewing machine box.

old-before

I’ve got a partially boxless machine that has been topless for nearly 20 years. Once in awhile I’d dick around on ebay debating about buying one, but usually balked at the shipping price, so this was a classic example of finally finding something for which I’d given up looking. And oddly enough, it was already in half of an old Morse box.

old-during

But the best part is that it was saved – yes, it’s dirty and stained and a bit smelly, but it still serves a good purpose in a way that nothing new can. Granted, that’s a given because I’m using something old on something old and the whole thing is a no shit sherlock kind of thing… But many/most people would have probably thrown the thing out? Or the thrift store might have dumpstered it? In fact, the half-naked machine had a complete case, but the thrift store threw out the top because the handle was broken off, or something along those lines, and unfortunately just before I bought it too… or so said the clerk who might have just been itching to see a long face…

So the machine has some new vintage digs albeit much younger than the machine itself. I had also been intending to un-electrify this machine and put it back in a nice treadle cabinet like it originally came in, but until that lucky happenstance comes along, I can at least store and use it a bit more securely.

old-case after

And then I’ll see if anyone needs the bottom part of an old Morse box – I need to check the rest of mine first though – I know I have one that the little post things that hold the machine are broken, but don’t know if the lid will fit the bottom – unfortunately even though these are all a universal size, the clasps that hold the two parts together can differ – these two Morses from approximately the same time period didn’t – one had clasps 1/4″ longer than the other…

During our most recent vacation, we stopped in a Goodwill in Maine. I love seeing the local flavor coming through in used shit and stop at thrifts whenever I can when I’m on the road. I was hoping to find some good old hard-wearing woolens, but silly me, in the land of frugality, of course they wouldn’t just be chucked in the charity bin but used until they were entirely shredded and then stuffed in the walls for insulation or given to the dog.

So I poked around the household items even though I’ve banned myself from buying any more plates ever.

oldthings-dirty plates

And I fell hard for these dirty old things.

At $4 for the whole lot, can you blame me? And they’ve got a bit of green and yellow and orange, my favorite colors? And they’re from the time period that I’m most drawn to in terms of household things?

old things-plates

But what I like best was that they were clearly salvaged from an old garage, barn, abandoned house, unrepaired attic, root cellar, or someplace long neglected and not suitable for proper china storage…

…but someone made the effort to chuck them in a box and haul them in for someone else.

The set isn’t really one – mostly dessert* dishes and a couple smaller and one larger. They aren’t in the best shape and are delicate-ish, therefore not entirely practical, but the worst ones are still useful for holding drippy or dry things (soap or sewing bits) and the good ones will be perfect for the occasional dessert

dirty old thing-polenta cake

(This is just one quarter of a very tasty polenta bar.)

*They’re probably actually luncheon plates instead of dessert plates, and though I think today’s plates are obscenely large and use “lunch” plates for my “dinner” plates on a daily basis, these would only hold the daintier finger sammies… And they’re made by W. H. Grindley & Co., England, but I can’t find the name of the pattern – according to a random website, the mark dates c. 1914-1925 – anyone recognize it?

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In praise of N…

I’m taking most of the credit for our house fixing-upping, and since I only work work part-time at the moment, I do put in several more hours/days a week on it, but N isn’t just sitting around on his ass either (unless I am too and we’re taking a much needed break).

His work is often stealthy and surprising – like whipping up a work bench while I’m painting a room (and possibly cursing under my breath that he isn’t helping, but then I find out he he was doing something very useful and necessary).  Or taking care of some little annoying paint/patch/trim detail in the morning when he’s up at an ungodly hour and I’m still snoozing.

workbench

He’ll take out toilets and do some minor electrical tinkering – things I either really don’t want to do, or don’t feel comfortable doing.

And take care of all of the floor and ceiling trim cutting – something I’m quite capable of doing, but waste more and bitch about a lot more.

And he’s a machine when it comes to hacking out massive patches of invasive species – at the last house it was bamboo, this one is Japanese Knotweed (of which we still haven’t quite gained the upper hand).

And please, anyone who is reading – never plant bamboo and Japanese Knotweed!!!!!

And the part I find most crucial on a daily basis is that he’s the cook (again, I am capable of doing so, but I could exist most nights on scrambled eggs and some greens, or pasta-all-the-time) so he keeps it interesting and delicious (I do supply the occasional enormous pot of chili or spontaneous vegetarian concoction).

sagefritters

(sage fritters with an anchovy surprise inside)

But the most kudos go to his willingness and ability to haul my shit.  When we first got together, I was bemoaning the fact that I lived in such a small apartment crowded with too many things, and instead of telling me I should purge, he said I just needed a bigger place… though it was possibly one of the most destructively enabling statements anyone has ever tossed at me, I loved it and it was endearing and actually inspired me to get things in better order to some degree, but after three hurried moves in the last few years, things have gotten out of control again.

Our albatross has been a storage locker 5 1/2 hours away that we thought we’d only have for a few months… It turned out to be two years and a few months.

storage empty

But now it is finally empty and no longer ours!

stored sewing machines

And I found a couple more sewing machines that I thought I had

NtheHulk

And N was a total beast hauling it all out of the locker, into the truck, out of the truck, and into the house.

Don’t be fooled by the ugly 1980s cover on that chair – it has to weigh close to 200 pounds, is nearly large enough for two, and is from c. 1940 when furniture was made to last out of iron and oak.  I’ll be sewing a new cover for it eventually.

truck full

And it is a little shocking to see how much stuff* we lived perfectly fine without for two and some years…

And yes, that’s a box of rocks on the bottom…

I promise those won’t be around when and if there’s another move.

(Or else I’ll hide them better).

*In my/our defense, we had two separate households for a few years and needed double the stuff.

[edited to correct some typos]

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Meet (some of) my sewing machines…

I learned to sew (or rather I learned how to use a sewing machine) on my mother’s 1960s era Singer.  I made some shapeless elastic waist skirts, “Jams” style shorts, and a few odds and ends in my youth.  During college, I borrowed the machine to make hats to sell at raves.  You heard me, raves – and the real kind back in the day, illegal and last minute and fun as a bucket of monkeys.  I loved her machine – it was metal and solid and felt like well, a machine in the masculine sense.  A few years later I acquired my first vintage machine at my favorite thrift store for something like $6.99.

machines1I’ve had it for nearly 20 years and it is the machine I use most often, however I just had to put it on a time-out due to a tension issue that springs up after an unpredictable amount of time (sometimes after 3 days of use, sometimes after year or so) and it seems to always fix itself as long as I don’t use it for a month or so.

machines1-det

A partial repair tag still clings to the handle – perhaps this tension issue gave the previous owner troubles as well…  After finding this machine, I was on the lookout for more.  Why?  I think I figured it would be nice to have the same one to use for parts if need be, I wanted one with zigzag and other stitch functions, and I just really fell in love with solid things made of metal that could last lifetimes – yes, the plural form.  I hate everything about the objects of our disposable society these days, but then again, obsolete, near-obsolete, and old timey things weigh a ton and are a pain in the ass to move.  But after a few years, I had amassed a collection of around 15 sewing machines, not to mention several typewriters and boxes of cameras and film equipment.  I didn’t move much then and used much of the equipment as furniture in my cramped apartment, but eventually most of it had to go.  Since I used the sewing machines on a fairly regular basis, I kept a half dozen of them or so.

machines4This is the back-up machine for when the pink Atlas is being temperamental.  It too came from a thrift store and I gasped when I opened the box – I’d never seen one that looked so like an automobile of the same era and I loved the deep green.  It sews strongly and steadily but the needle needs to be coaxed into the fabric in just the right way each time that I tend to get a little impatient with it.  Its best use is for sewing long seams or quilting.

machines2

This is the prettiest and the oldest of my current machines and it works just fine.  The bobbin is a little fiddly to work with so I don’t like to change it as often.  When I had more space (and when I will hopefully have more space again) I’d leave it set up with thread in the opposite color of what I was using in the other machine if I needed to hop on it for something else.  I believe this was originally a treadle machine and motorized later, so I have intentions of trying to turn this back into a manual machine, but I’d rather find a treadle machine for a reasonable price (and I could fit in my car or have delivered) instead.  It is also in a re-purposed Morse case that is annoyingly without a lid, so at the very least, I need a new lid/container for it.

machines3

machines3-det

My brother found this lovely Singer for me, but it’s probably been a decade ago…  I have it nearby because I intend to try to find a couple of missing parts for it, but haven’t done much searching around for them yet.  Ironically, it also came with the manual and a few extra tools, so someone was meticulous about keeping it all together only up to a certain point.  This one is also a more compact “portable” model, so it would be convenient to get it up and running as soon as possible.  I’m also slightly afraid to plug in anything old, so the first time I like to be prepared in case of an inferno.

And then I have perhaps two more?  I’m a little nervous that I can’t find them at the moment, but I believe that they could be in storage along with the other third of our stuff.  Hopefully I didn’t get rid of them in the frustration of the move.  One of them is another Atlas similar to my old stand-by that I found left in the trash on the curb in my old neighborhood.  Its cord was cut, perhaps indicating that the motor was blown or that it needs to be re-wired so I can use it for parts, or get it up and running again.  I believe the other machine is another Singer with a bad motor?

The machines I had but sold years ago included a couple of really old ones that had been motorized but weren’t very functional, I believe yet another Atlas, a less attractive 70s machine, and a blue White that I still can’t understand to this day why I got rid of it – it had a zigzag stitch, WTF?  But I think I thought I’d find another…

Some days I’m a little envious of others with the fancy-schmancy machines that will practically stitch up a cup of coffee or an offspring  but mostly I love my hunky metal beasts and will continue to do so…

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