Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

...and it certainly would be easy to be snoring. But instead, I've been doing a bit of sewing.

It's raining, it's pouring!
Suzanne's doing some sewing!

My friend, Abi, posted this tutorial last year, showing how to repurpose pillow cases into shopping totes. I thought it was a wonderful idea! I tried one right away, as you may remember from this post, last May. I gave it away promptly, and continued to look for vintage pillow cases on thrift store trips, but just never got around to sewing any more.

Part of the reason for not sewing was that I haven't been very enamored of my current machine. Flash back to two weeks ago... Hubby and I were rained out of the garden and decided to make the best of it by thrifting our way to the boys' chorus rehearsal. We were getting ready to leave one of our favorite stores when I spied this on a rack behind me:

Price tag: $7.50

Yes, that's seven dollars and fifty cents! No fake! I couldn't believe it.

Let me divert to a slightly different topic here for a moment. The topic is relativity. After shopping in mostly thrift stores for years, $7.50 seems like a hefty price. I actually stood there... considering, cogitating, contemplating. We rarely spend more than $2 or $3 on any single item in a thrift store. $7.50 seemed like so much at the time. This kind of relativity is a good exercise for the mind. Thinking this way, I believe, is a good habit to establish. There is so much excess in our country.

So I started examining the machine. I am familiar with the maker, Janome, enough to know that it has a good reputation. I lifted off the case (not pictured here) and moved the fly wheel, operated levers and switches, examined the bobbin and looked underneath the machine. There was no power cord and foot pedal, so I asked the sales clerk if there were any missing cords laying around. She said there weren't, so I looked around in the electronics part of the store and on the shelves nearby, coming up empty.

Finally, with Hubby's encouragement, I decided to get the machine. The clerk said I could return it in a week if it didn't work. So I got busy, found a foot pedal and power cord for about $50, had a nearby Amishman look at it, and downloaded an instruction manual. All that took about a week. Then I started playing.

Back when I first started sewing seriously, my last year of college, about 25 years ago (oops... I'm dating myself here... a quarter of a century???? Crap I'm getting old...) I bought an ol
d Singer sewing machine from the University. They were having a sale of old equipment and this machine was from the 50s. It had a cast iron head, painted black, and was mounted in a solid wood cabinet with drawers, for $20.

A beauty. I bought that machine, took it home, and promptly went to the university library, where I found an old book that explained how to take the machine apart and oil and lube the parts, check the motor brushes and generally care for the machine. I took that book to a copy shop and made myself a notebook. Then I got busy and fixed that machine right up. I bought attachments for it and used it like crazy for years... about eight years, to be exact. I sewed all of my clothes for work on it, business suits with interfacing, pad-stitching, lining, and welt pockets. It was a great machine, and I really learned a lot using it.

During my professional, working-girl days, I eventually splurged on a new, expensive machine. And it was a nice machine, with some modern conveniences, that served me quite well. But I couldn't maintenance that machine. It had all these access panels that would only open with special tools and I would have had to break the machine to service it myself. I got a lot of use out of that machine, but I hated having to take it in to the dealer and pay $50 to $100 every time I wanted to clean the lint out, oil it, and adjust the tension mechanism. Especially once we moved out to the country. I didn't want to have to drive 50 to 80 miles to pay that kind of money for something I should be able to do myself.

So, about four years ago, I sold that machine on eBay, and for a good price, I might add. With the proceeds we bought a decent mechanical machine with a treadle option, which appealed to me, because I could operate it without electricity if needs be. But I've never really gotten the hang of that machine. And I found myself not wanting to use it that much. I'm a busy person, so this didn't bother me that much. And yet... there remained a nagging sort of hankering in the back of my mind. A hankering to sew.

Now, back to my story. I'll bet you didn't plan on getting a sewing machine history and maintenance lesson, did you?

The Singer has been out of my life for awhile, but the knowledge of sewing machine construction and maintenance stuck with me. So, I recognized that this Janome has all-metal parts, and that the user can maintenance the machine herself. So many modern machines are computerized, and have those funny panels and tools I mentioned earlier. I was delighted that I could simply and easily see under the machine and watch all the moving parts in action as I rotated the fly wheel!

My Janome is mechanical, and the manual even shows how to maintenance the machine! So I did exactly that. I delinted that puppy and wiped it down, oiled the moving parts, and set it up for sewing. The rest, as they say, is history. This is the best machine I've ever had. I love sewing on it, and I have been thinking about it every day for the last week. Thank you, thrift store Goddess, for shining a light on me two weeks ago. I am so grateful!

A good project to test out a new machine is Abi's pillow case shopping tote. Once I did a bag:

I just kept pulling out my pillow cases. And then I started changing things up.

I did a different strap...

dug into my stash of vintage trims,

and have been having a ball.

Thanks, Abi, for the inspiration.

It's been one of the rainiest springs on record here in our part of Ohio, and there is more on the way over the next three days. There are puddles in the garden, and it's hard to plant certain things. So, I'll continue to sew, off and on. There is a time and place for everything, and the time for me right now is one in which to sew.

I have not forgotten about "A" is for Alley Cropping, so please stay tuned. If there's one thing I've learned from blogging, it's that I never know exactly where my entries are headed. I just start with an idea and my posts take on a life of their own. This means you, dear reader, never know what you may find when you drop in here. Thanks, as always, for stopping by.


  1. What a bargain. I am thrilled for you!!!!

  2. I really love hearing about experiences with sewing machines. I've always wanted to work on one of those old Singers, they're so beautiful! It seems like a piece of Americana right there.

    I have a Janome as well, and I love it. It's really user-friendly, and it's all manual, like yours. I don't know the first thing about maintenance, though! I've had mine for years, but it's rare that I get the chance to really delve into the world of sewing. My mother and grandmother are both experienced seamstresses, but I'm experienced in a very limited world.

    My grandmother actually told me this weekend that she'd like me to come over and get her old sewing machine, as she doesn't use it anymore. I had no idea she still had it! She said it's the same one she's been using since she was a teenager, so I have no idea what condition it will be in!

    Maybe I could ask for some references for sewing machine maintenance?

    I ranted again. I'm sorry.

  3. Thanks, Marci! I am thrilled for me, too! :)

    Sassafrass, please do not apologize for your lengthy comments. I love reading them. Keep me posted about your grandmother's machine. In so many ways, there is no comparison to those oldies.

    The best reference I ever found for sewing machine maintenance on older machines was published by extension offices in the 40s and 50s. Maybe even earlier. They have the best drawings and information you can imagine. I'll try to find my copy and see if I can put a name to what I used. I researched at a university library, found the book in the stacks and then had it photocopied. It was well worth it!

  4. I have to ask--where's the black singer?? ROFL! I have some "new" machines. But go back to one of those old black beauties--since I can do just like you--service it myself! Those expensive and time consuming "tune ups" had me put those machines back in the closet unless I need a fancy stitch. About once a year!

  5. Lori, it suffered some flood damage and I finally gave it away, about five years ago. Nothing can compare to the buttonholes I made with that machine, using that great buttonhole attachment and the correctly sized cam. I would still probably buy another one if it crossed my path...