Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saved Piano Lamps

I have two piano lamps.  One, regular contemporary kind, and the other is a vintage find that I got more than 20 years ago. This one is particularly cute with treble clef motif. 

They both broke around the same time. I was bummed. I just left them broken for a long time. Couldn't bare the thought of ditching the vintage one, especially.  But I really needed, at least one piano lamp to be functioning. So, I thought I'd just get a new one.

Stunned. Didn't know that piano lamps cost that much. Then, it occurred to me........  Maybe I can fix them. (Duh~) I knew it wasn't the bulb. I've already bought a new bulb and put it on, but both lamps still didn't work. Soooooo, maybe the socket.

I happen to drive by a specialty lamp store in my neighborhood, stopped by, asked them about a replacement socket -- of course they had it.  Bought two, plus one more light bulb = $8.  Got home, and 5 minutes later, oh, my.  Both of my piano lamps were fixed. Was so simple. The socket connected to the switch screwed right off and on.  Can't believe I almost threw them both away. Shame on me.

This was shortly after I found my first vintage Singer 15-91, Tami. My brain was getting rewired and shifting in the reuse & recycle mode from the previous, "use, dump, and get a new one."

Not only I began collecting vintage sewing machines, I renewed my attraction to and appreciation for old, well-built stuff.  It horrifies me that even for a few days, I was seriously going to put the perfectly fine piano lamps in the garbage can! (Especially the treble clef one! Can you imagine?!) They just had broken sockets from years of constant use that needed replacing....... Simple.  My mindset is now reset.

My treble clef piano lamp sits on top of a piano, and the other ordinary looking piano lamp helps me on my sewing desk.

It's actually really nice to have extra light coming from behind sewing machine when I sew.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Muslin -- A Must?

Time flew.  Last week was busy, and before I knew it, it was OVER.

The weekend included trying a new Yakiniku, Japanese style BBQ, restaurant. Oh fun!

I've been thinking a lot about muslins. For the longest time, I didn't know people made muslins. How and where I learned to sew, muslin making was never mentioned. (Another topic, another post)

I've been an occasional and casual garment sewer for a long time -- I like things that are quick, not so serious, so that's what I did a lot of.  I'd like to avoid something like muslin making if at all possible. Sounds so time consuming.

I hadn't sewn for a few years until this year. Now ## years later, I want to get serious. I will still make bags and other fun things, will not give up on improv sewing.  But now I'm aiming for making some serious garments.  Something I'll actually really like and will love to wear.

So I started reading on something like this, how to make a muslin. And like this on Burda. (Muslin is called Toile [tou-wa-le]?? outside US, it seems.  In Japan, it's called [Toware], I'm finding.)  Lauren, who by the way spits out dresses faster than I can read her blog, at Lladybird says in her tips on sewing post to make a muslin.  Reeeaaally? Do I have to? Should I?

After so many years of not sewing a thing for me, I made an impulse purchase of a pattern and fabric this summer and made this.
It was fun, and it was mainly to test and to get to know my new sewing machine. But, as you can see, the result isn't so pretty.  I'm afraid I chose a wrong kind of fabric, and the size adjustment I made directly onto the dress as I was making it, didn't really turn out great. Totally out of practice. It was an experience. A learning experience. (The word "Muslin" crossed my mind.)

Now that I'm really looking forward to receiving and sewing with the patterns I ordered (yes, I did!) from Style Arc , it's really time to practice.

By the way, these are the patterns I ordered.

Adel top

Susan Top

Linda Stretch Pants

They will also throw in a free one.
What a great marketing idea. A free pattern with every purchase. I don't even mind the shipping charge now. A win-win, consumers & Style Arc. I can smell this is a great company. When I emailed them with a question on sizing, I received a prompt email from Chloe who I believe is one of the founders of Style Arc.

In trying to select what my first Style Arc patterns purchase was going to be, I wanted to see what others have sewn with Style Arc patterns. I came across this blog.  The wardrobe put together by Margy from A Fool for Fabric sold me! This was it!

It could be two weeks before I get them as they are sent from Australia. Meanwhile, I decided to 'practice' while I wait for the patterns. I pulled out a pattern from my pattern stash drawer, and I pulled out this green fabric, formerly known as bed sheet. I remember reading about 'sheet shirts' on Peter Lappin's blog, Male Pattern Boldness, so I thought, why not a sheet dress?
The actual color is slightly brighter hunter green than the photo sows here. I actually like it a lot.  In this fabric pattern, I spy a jack-o'-lantern picture! (or is that supposed to be a flower, upside down?!)

Pulled out a few of my vintage sewing tools.

The pink one and the tracing papers came in one of the drawers of the cabinet with my Elna blue top machine. The spiky one, I bought at the monthly vintage market in my neighborhood. I love the pink one. It's so handy. It's really two-in-one. You can use both the spiky wheel side and the pink plastic end just like a Hera Marker.

This envelope contained seven large unused tracing papers in five different colors. Marked 29 cents!  

By the way, I am using Jeri Bee, my New Home/Janome, for this dress. She is SOOOOO smooth and quiet. I'm really loving her. The only thing I had to get used to was that her needle position of LEFT being normal. Not a biggie. Just different from what I'm used to.
 Oooo, note my brand new shellac nail polish, too~!

So, do you make a muslin with every project you sew? Can you tell that I'm trying to convince myself that I must.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New Home (Janome) Sewing Machine

My dear friend, Jeri Beri, was at my house for our monthly Art Journal group meeting. "I've got something for you," she said as soon as she came in the door.  She solicited a couple of others to help her unload this "something" from her car. What could it be?? I hope it's not too big.

OMG! this beautiful, but a bit browning green box was carried in.

 This did weigh a zillion ton. The whole box is solid wood with wall paper-ish thing covering, and the only "fake" thing was the handle which was plastic trying to look like leather.

Unveiling her.  Ta-da~!
By looking at the box, I'd expected to see a well-used, an old nondescript New Home sewing machine, and I was going to have to sort of fake my excitement.  BUUUUUUUT.  Look at her! It took my breath away.  I screamed with joy. Then, I actually tried to stay cool, as I was the only one in the group who had this condition called vintage sewing machine fanatic syndrome. She even came complete with a red spool of thread, matching her accent color!

Impeccably clean, inside out. I opened her top, side, and the bottom to confirm that she's never been used. It sat in someone's closet for years with the case lid tightly shut. I did not have to clean her at all.  She was thirsty for sure.

I was going to look her up to see who made it. But no need. It was on her, in fact all over her. I haven't seen many badged Japanese machines with the actual manufacturer's name so clearly written on it. She is a Janome machine! Even the manual - the inside was all Janome with the warranty card addressed to Janome. This New Home machine was openly Janome.

She really was new. This pretty two-tone green tin was a true treasure chest.  Love that the handle of the screw drivers is wood.  And the color matching seam ripper.  I'd drool over just for the tin! How anyone could buy this pretty machine and never used it is a mystery to me.
I only test sewed her for a little bit. Have not sewed any project on her yet. When I tested her, she sewed beautifully except when I fed thick fabric, (like 6 layers of thick woven or 3 layers of denim) she hesitated and I had to help her manually with the hand wheel. I experienced the same with other Japanese machines of this era. Is that one of the characteristics of these, or am I just not using the right foot or something?  Maybe I'll sew on her the green dress I just cut the fabric for. That seems appropriate. Green on green.

Beautiful straight and zig-zag stitches. Feed dogs can drop, too. What more would you need? Well, maybe a free-arm, but not absolutely necessary.

I think I will now call her Jeri Bee.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Style Arc, I found you

I've been looking for patterns that I can really connect with. Over and beyond McCall's, Simplicity, even Vougue and Burda.  Style Arc! I found you! I think this is totally my kind of style. I'm setting aside, for now, a growing pile of vintage patterns I was going to tackle.

I LOVE this one. I love cardigans to begin with.

This is such a cute tunic style top.

I looked for reviews and pics of actual project people have made. I'm convinced. I have to do this.

I learned to sew when I was very young, and I sewed off and on all my life. But I never got have yet to get to the level of an expert or advanced sewer.  Never sewed often enough. I've made pajamas, aprons, and bags in my teens, some of my own clothes in my 20's, my kids' clothes and Halloween costumes in my 30's on.  Besides the home-ec class and learning from my mother when I was a kid, I have never taken a sewing class.  I guess I would consider myself as an "advanced beginner" or "beginning intermediate" sewer.  Now, can I pull off these beautiful designs of Style Arc patterns?

Look at all these. Just so inspiring, and I want to make them NOW.

This, not only looks beautiful, but looks super comfy. Wide waist band, pull-on pants for stretch woven?!
Oh, and this!
Wait!  This one says "Challenging" and for "Experienced Sewist"......  mmmmm, I've learned to set the kids up for a success when I teach. Basically, 'set a realistic goal, and feel good, so you will do more next time'.  Since I'm teaching myself to be a better sewer, I'm my own student. Go easy and be patient, yes?

Perhaps I should look in the "easy" and "beginners" category first. Ok, maybe I'll start with this.

Or even this one. Looks like this can be a very flattering pair.  I don't quite get why this one is easy and the other pair above is moderate in difficulty. But I'll trust them.

Lately, I've been getting this uncontrollable urge to make my own clothes, the kind of clothes I love to wear that I can't really find in the RTW market (at a reasonable price).  Sure, I've seen some amazing, awesome stuff at an Italian import boutique here in the city where there is an extra -0- at the end of every price tag, and in fascinating Tokyo boutiques where it would cost $1,500 in airfare just to get there. 

Here on my blog, I publicly announce that, with making baby but steady steps, I aim to become a confident sewist who can evaluate the pattern design that would suit me, and can choose appropriate fabric for the design, and can sew it successfully so that I will actually LOVE the stuff I make and I will actually WEAR the stuff I make.  ----- can I actually achieve this? I'd like to....  Yes, I will! Well, maybe I will. Over time. Perhaps.

I'm going back to the Style Arc website now to make my first purchase.  

Oh, over the weekend I did make two bags. (one of which I forgot to take a photo and I've already given it to the birthday girlfriend)

and finished the light knit top on which I got to test my new serger. (wooooow, I'll introduce her sometime soon)

My sewing studio was nice and sunny. A happy time was had by all.
 I'll be back with the final decision on which Style Arc pattern I choose as my first Style Arc project.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bernina Sport 801 - Purchase, Find, or Rescue? Emotional up and down.

There are three ways sewing machines are acquired (according to me).  Purchase, Find, and Rescue. If you are into vintage sewing machines, you know what I'm talking about.  This one was a FIND and a RESCUE all in one. 

I've always been very curious about old Bernina machines, like Record 830 or even 730.  Their going market price kept me from getting wanting  pursuing one. It was just not too long ago that I learned there were also Minimatics and Sports. Now, those made sense to me both in the going price (a bit lower), and the size (I can't house any more full-size machine in my house, but portable smaller-ish machines??........ sure)

Stumbled upon this CUTIE!!!! (Note: this is her "Before" photo. No spa treatment has been given yet.)
You know, I wasn't even looking for one.  Of all places, she was on the shelf with a mountain of microwaves, at the Goodwill Outlet store.  The final place these unsold items are given one last chance before they hit the dump.  I immediately grabbed her, plugged her in to confirm that the motor was alive and the needle bar moved.  That's good enough for me. It had the power cord/foot pedal, and the extension table.  No bobbin case, thread spool pins/stand were missing, and no other accessories. (but that's ok. My Bernina 1230's feet and bobbin case probably fit.)

This was the first time I saw a Bernina Sport in person, and I was immediately attracted to its compact design, portability with the handle, and the red accent color. Just super cute. Perfect. I've been thinking that I could use a real good,  reliable take-along machine that had at least straight and zig-zag stitches.

There was no price on it. I asked the store clerk, and she said, "TWO NINETY NINE". Right. I didn't think she was asking for two hundred ninety-nine dollars, as you might see on ebay as a real bargain.  But just in case, I double check. "Two DOLLARS and ninety-nine CENTS?"  She nods.

It was cosmetically in a bit rough shape. Had ding here and there (probably got bruised getting thrown in from one place to another), the hand wheel had what looks like some teeth marks or maybe it got badly scraped against something hard while being moved.

But everything moved, so of course I took it home. Upon getting home, I noticed that the buttonholer knob was missing. Well, it's ok. I can try to find a replacement, or I don't need it to do buttonholes.  I'll use other machines for that.

Love at first sight. I was already dreaming about taking her on a trip, maybe a week in Hawaii, or a weekend getaway to Orcas Island, and get really inspired to sew something on vacation. <3

Anyway, I couldn't wait. As soon as I got home, I borrowed the bobbin case and the bobbin from my other Bernina (she's a 1230), and test sewed.  She sewed fine! I tested straight and zigzag for just a bit.  She was a dusty little thing. I cleaned her inside and out.

Ooo, look at those metal cams.  And the fuzz to be cleaned.

Her hand wheel was a little sticky. So, I opened her up and jiggled the hand wheel a bit more.
 OMG! What are those???  Layers and layers of threads! How did this ever happen, and how did the sewer not notice that this happened?  It had multiple colors of threads, so it didn't just happen one time. Then again, I remembered reading somewhere that this is a common sight on older sewing machines needing "repair". 
She was finally all cleaned up and oiled. The moment I've been waiting for! I want to test all her stitches!

Ooops, this above photo was still one of the "before" pictures.  (I really cleaned her up. Really.)

Her tension was perfect, I didn't have to adjust a thing for the straight stitch.  Beautiful, and I love the sound of the motor. It hums and purrs very sweetly.

Now let's test other stitches!  --- This is when the tragedy happened.  With this type of strong, reliable, metal, and Bernina sewing machine, I wasn't expecting much trouble. BUUUUUUUUUT!  I encountered a few issues. (dang. super sad)

1) While the straight stitch is beautiful, cannot zig-zag with stitch width wider than 2. The needle hits something in the bobbin case/shuttle area.

2) All other stitches, #3 ~ #7, it sews for the first 2 minutes or so, then WHAM! The same thing happens as above. The needle hits bobbin case/shuttle.

3) Needle position -- is supposed to be set to the middle, but if I do that, for zig-zag, the needle will hit the needle plate on the right.  I had to set the needle to the far left position to get it to sew zig-zag up to the width 2.

4) Furthermore, the extension table that was with this machine actually didn't fit. A little research resulted that the table actually is for 801, not for Sport 801. How in the world this machine ended up with a wrong table??

Well, what do I do now.  I can clean, oil, and make minor adjustments, replace broken parts if it's visible, easy to get to and easy to disassemble/assemble.  But that's all.  I'm not a sewing machine mechanic. I can't repair a machine : (

Do I:

a) Take it to my neighborhood Bernina shop, and have them fix it, no matter how much it costs, now that I've fallen in love with it?  Um, that sounds just too crazy.  Can't do 'love is blind'.

b) No, silly. The repair will cost at least $200. (My wild guess. For just plain maintenance servicing, they charge $165 per machine) If I really, really want, look for a good working condition one which I can probably get for around $300?  Sell the foot control (omg, these are going for over $100 on ebay. Really?!) and the table so I can fund my good machine PURCHASE. Give or keep this machine as parts machine.

b) Continue to fiddle with it, seek help in the various sewing machine related Yahoo groups I belong to, maybe I will figure out what to do to make it work right ?? After all, I only paid $3. Take it apart, there is not much to lose here.

c) Give up on the idea that $3 will give me a completely functional vintage Bernina. Work with what I've got. Enjoy the straight stitch, and narrow zig-zag stitches, be satisfied with these, expect nothing more from this one.

What should I do?!

Also, one funky thing.  The speed of this sewing machine.  As soon as I step on the foot control (even with the slower setting -- I found a switch on the foot controller for faster and slower), it takes off! No first gear, second gear, just turbo at once. I can't start slow. Is this a normal behavior of Bernina Sport 801? After all, the name, "Sport"..... Anyone out there, Bernina Sport 801 users?

What do I do now.  I want this machine to work.  Currently, she sits cute under my sewing desk, waiting for her treatment plans to be determined.  So sad : (  She sure is cute and strong.