Monday, May 06, 2013

Sewing Machines, Madness?

Gack! I keep having problems with the computer, mainly being able to post pictures. I went back to my old computer and remembered why I like a larger keyboard. Hopefully I will have an easier time posting to the social medias that I use. This is going to be a change from the tiny keyboard on the other computer!
 I wanted to write about the sewing machines that I have and use. Kind of off the jewelry subject, but I saw a bunch of pictures the other day of machines that one person owned. It got me to thinking and I wanted to know if anyone else has multiple machines? Anyone else have machines that they use for one or two purposes or do you use one machine for every bit of sewing that you do?
      Me? mmmm..... I have a few. I am only posting several of the ones that I have today. I own a few more than four...I refuse to tell how many on the grounds that I might incriminate myself or be found insane. My daughter brought this problem of collecting to my attention just a couple of months ago, as a matter of fact. She said I should get rid of my machines. But.... but, but.... I can't get rid of them. At least not the White Rotary.... or the Kenmore Sensor Sew 70.... or the International..... or.... or.... OK, OK... so maybe I do have a slight problem with collecting, maybe I do go a bit overboard, like the manual sewing machine that I bought in Bristol, England, that I was not able to bring  back to the states with me, so it sits in the cottage near Silloth, waiting for me to save it. Yes, that was not a well thought out purchase, but it was calling to me... buy me, save me... bring me home.... I could have shipped it if I had a bit more time,  but I thought a week was enough time to get done with all the shipping and all the business that goes with it... well... get it done. But, finding a UPS that was even remotely close to Silloth was near impossible, and I ended up shipping my books and things with the Royal Postal Service... If I had done the shipping while in Bristol, well... it would have been easier and quicker, and a damn sight cheaper as well.... but you don't want to hear about that do you?
That machine was an emotional purchase, and granted, the White was an emotional purchase... but usually the purchases are strictly functional. OK, so the White would still be functional if I could get another belt. Now I have found a person that actually will supply me with belts, so I can get it working again,  it too will be functional all in good time. The rest of the machines usually work, or have minor problems and can be cleaned and fixed up and do serve some purpose. I teach, not full time but some classes of sewing  and quilting at the college as well as teaching the summer kids camp, and one of the activities was sewing... So normally the purchases are functional, and I don't go around looking for machines, they just kind of find me, but.... I want to find a turquoise machine so bad that I don't care if it has real problems or not. I have my Grandmother's old Kingston, which could be close to but it really isn't turquoise, more of that industrial greenish color. I think that would complete my collection, or at least make me happy!
I started out on that old Kingston, and I loved it. Straight sew and all. I loved that it was sturdy and would sew jeans or silk and it was easy to thread and easy to move, though a bit heavy. I advanced on to the Kenmore Sensor Sew 70 when I was about 23. I loved that machine as well, but was mortified when after only a month or so it fizzled out and had to go to the shop with it's computer going out. It was gone to the machine hospital for a month, and since we lived in a small town with no hope of having a local repairman, I panicked and decided that I would always have a backup machine. In this particular case it was that old standby Kingston... now I have a couple of backups...
I used the Kenmore for quite a few years, with my grandmother's as more of a backup. I used her old machine to sew jeans all the time. I love that machine. It may be really old, but it just keeps on sewing. I sewed kids clothes and my clothes, kitchen accessories, bedspreads, quilts, curtains, and just about every kind of craft I could think of. Dolls, stuffed animals, blocks, balls, purses, camping accessories. Anything that I thought about, I made it.  Now I go to the store and buy my son's clothes, but only because I know he would not wear jeans that I made... but my daughter did. she wasn't that picky, and I did a pretty darn good job making all her clothes.
I took a while off from sewing, about 3 years. I worked a lot and had gotten a divorce, remarried and had another child and decided that it was time to get the machine out of storage. When I did, I had problems with both machines and just went and bought a cheap Brother sewing machine. It is ok, don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with the way it sews that can't be fixed pretty easily, but it just isn't a machine that is sturdy. I would never work on jeans with it, but I suppose it would work ok. I got my other two working and they were now my standby machines... but I used them both a lot.  The Brother and I worked on probably 40 quilts together. It sews ok, like I say, but it is really light weight, good for taking along with you for projects, but not one that I would want to use all the time. My husband was at a garage sale looking at lawn equipment and came across the old White sewing machine. It, being a treadle, was something he knew that I wanted. I had bought an old anniversary edition Singer treadle before I divorced and really loved it, but had to get rid of it. Knowing that somewhere in my mind I was saying, it had to go, it had to go... it was still hard to part with something so pretty.
So when my husband came home with that White Rotary... I hugged him and cried. He knew it was going to be something that I would never get rid of.
Cheryl's mother's machine, International... a keeper?
Now, the one I bought from the charity shop... not so much, I could part with it when it was fixed and ready to go, I found a new home for it,  but I did love it. Then there was another from a different charity shop that was calling to me, and another, and then one from the garage sale down the street. That one had been the machine of my friend Cheryl. She didn't even know if her mother had ever used it. I think she had, but it was put away with a piece of cloth in it and the thread through the tensions and needle (something I think everyone should do). She had the instruction book and box of accessories to go with it as well. I don't know if it sews as well as the Kenmore but I like it and now it has an emotional attachment as well... I know, crazy, huh?

OK, so it is growing, this collection that I have. But, I have to say... there are machines that I have that do one job, and one job only. Like the little portable machine that I got to take to quilting club. It is fun, but I would never use it for anything else... and honestly, now I am afraid that I have forgotten how to use it.  Or that little portable that I bought when i was at Dunelm in Carlisle. I wanted to make some pillows and curtains, and maybe a quilt, but I couldn't get the old portable that was kind of a castaway, an odd one that folds up to a small case.... well, I didn't have a clue how to use it anyway, but the bobbin was missing... so I bought this one, and used it, but it runs on English current, which I think might blow up any machine that i have, and our current would never power, or blow up this machine, so I left it at the cottage as well. sigh......
Then there is the one that I bought when I decided to really work on quilts. I bought the Janome. Harmony.
It is pretty cool, does nice embroidery, and it kind of one of those machines that once you get used to it, is really a go to for all your needs. I still like the old one of my Grandmother's. I bought another Singer, this time not a treadle. I like it as well, as for an older machine, but it sits without me using it for a long time.
When I think of a real sewing machine, I think of a machine in a table. One that is permanent and a piece of furniture that you don't get rid of. Maybe that is my problem with getting rid of sewing machines. I just can't do it, I look at the machine first I guess, and try to reason that it works, and does a job that is necessary... and then I look at the table that accompanies it. Is it worth salvaging? Mostly yes. Though I have a piece of the White that has disappeared somehow and no way to replace it. .
 This is the Kenmore that I got at one of the Charity shops. I love it almost as much as I do my grandmother's old machine. It is kind of a purpley-silver, and it is pretty heavy. I love that it has a knee pedal that makes it easier on the back... or at least that is what I think. My mom had a Singer that had the cool knee lever/pedal? Kind of reminds me of it.
This machine does heavy duty clothing, but I like it for denim and canvas. Yes, I do work on a lot of canvas. I did about 50 duffel bags out of canvas and I don't know how many knapsacks. It is one of those machines that was built to last. Heavy without the cabinet, so heavy that I would rather keep it out all the time instead of closing it up in the cabinet. But I don't.
Of the machines I have shown you today, I didn't get the old Kingston out. I will try, but you know me, It isn't going to happen right away. I have it put away at the back of the workroom, with that little portable one that I have forgotten how to use. Sad. I haven't found another quilt club around here to go to... Something I need to work on. 



  1. I got my first machine at a thrift store for $25.. a Kenmore convertible freearm 158.1125 I believe.. I never had machine sewn and always planned to get one if i ran into the right one..I must have had some memory from fashion mags in the 70's and seen it - but it was "the one".. something about the sound of a Kenmore that I love too. Then i started cruising ebay for deals.. maybe something with more options.. and found my Kenmore Sensor 70. It did not work as promised when I got it.. it was stuck in reverse. I was refunded but they let me keep it since it would have cost to return it. A year later I got around to taking it to a shop for repair.. cost me $100 and they went over the whole thing. Love that you just hit the codes and go.. no touch screens etc. Did my first machine hemming on some jeans the other night. The manual was a little vague about the presser foot dial on top.. am I to understand that when sewing layers of heavier materials you set the dial to 3-4? What would you set thread tension at? I managed to get thru it with decent enough results. I wanted to take a class when i got my 158 but when I went to the local shop they weren't versed in the settings on Kenmores so I've been going it alone. Found a beautiful oak parson sewing cabinet. The cut out seemed to be for a Viking machine so i just take the cut out off and set it on the inner shelf just below. Would love to convert it to an electric lift and save myself hauling the machine from the back room each time.

  2. I know, the Kenmore Sensor Sew 70 is just a sturdy, fun machine to use! I think the tension is one of those things that kind of varies from machine to machine, and what thickness you are sewing and all... I use between a 2.5-3 on the tension, but it does vary from each sewing since the jeans do vary in weight. The presser foot is variable as well. I kept a journal for a long time on each weight that I would sew. It would be handy to just take some fabric and sew with different settings to find out which one works best on your machine.
    Your parson's table sounds like a dream! I bet you could find someone to put in the lift for you at a nominal charge and it would be better than moving it all the time. I had to move my machines every week for classes at the college, they finally cleaned out a closet for me to store them in... I think it is hard on them to be moved a lot, but I still move them more than I think I should. Best of luck on sewing!!

    1. I was going to send you a photo of the cabinet but couldn't find an address. On the inside of the right side cabinet door, there is a slotted place to hang scissors at the top, and 2 spool shelves near the bottom.. but above the spool shelves there is a row of thick dowels mounted vertically. I still haven't figured out what they are for. They are each about an inch and a half tall and about 3/4 inch across. Any ideas of what they are for? Thanks.

    2. I was going to send you a photo of the cabinet but couldn't find an address. Inside the right door, there are slotted places to hang scissors, and 2 spool shelves near the bottom. Just above the shelves there is a row of fat dowels- each about an inch and a half tall by 3/4" across mounted vertically. Do you have any idea what that would have been used for?

    3. Oh gosh, I think they might be for cams? I don't know what kind of machine it held, but sometimes the cams are odd shaped and they sit on a kind of spindle? and would be stored on top of the dowel... I'll look at some of mine and see what they are sitting on. I have a couple of Kenmore that take the cams, a White and another that I couldn't tell you what it is! I have not had some of the machines out in a while. I used to take them out and touch them and sew a bit on each one, but I just don't have the time anymore. Sad....

  3. Ahh! That sounds about right. I never thought of that since I've never had a machine that used cams. Thanks for solving that mystery. I believe the cut out was probably for an old Viking machine as they have that edge around the base and there's a clamp for that.


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