Friday
Oct062017

Nailed It

It's been a good week. I made a bag that is almost indistinguishable from something you would find in a store (and given the quality of goods available nowadays, it's probably better than something you would find in a store), and I restored that Necchi BU Mira as close to her former glory as I could get her without a full strip and repaint:

This machine had been sitting here for the past year, looking sad and forlorn. Every time I walked by it, I thought to myself that it was probably beyond redemption. I need to remember that even the most awful-looking machines can be rehabilitated. (I know this, because I have done it twice: once with the first Rocketeer I bought and now with this one.) It's just a step-by-step process. Like many things, getting started is often the hardest part.

(Here I am, waxing poetic about sewing machine restoration.)

I really wish I could find the picture of this machine from the original Charlotte Craigslist ad. It was filthy and half hanging out of its cabinet (which was trashed). This has been a pretty dramatic transformation. I suspect that if I hadn't bought this machine, it might well have ended up in a landfill somewhere and that would just have been a crying shame. The engineering on these machines is truly amazing. They can take so much abuse and yet—when they are all cleaned up inside and out—they move as smoothly as they did when they came off the factory floor. 

I don't mind machines with battle scars. It's much easier to sew on a machine when you don't have to worry about keeping it in mint condition. I need to put the tension assembly back together and on the machine. Once I do that and attach the motor, I'll be able to test its sewing capabilities. This machine also came with a Wonder Wheel, a contraption that fits on the front of the machine on the right side and allows for the creation of lots of different decorative stitches. I have mixed feelings about Wonder Wheels (and decorative stitching in general). I am not a big fan of the kinds of bells and whistles that can break and put an otherwise useful machine out of commission. Granted, these machines still work perfectly well without their Wonder Wheels, but working Wonder Wheels are very sought after in the Necchi universe. I need to clean up the Wonder Wheel that came with this machine, see if I can source some of the metal rods that connect the WW to the levers on the front of the machine (I wonder if I know anyone who owns a metal stamping plant), and try it out. 

Now you get my sermon on decorative sewing stitches: I belong to several sewing machine groups and there is almost a mania about collecting Necchis capable of making decorative stitches. This includes machines with Wonder Wheels and machines like the Supernovas with built-in cam systems, but also includes acquiring all of the accessories, like the stitch cams and various bits and pieces needed to make the cams work. I get that for a true collector, having a machine with all of its original parts increases its value. The kicker is that I hardly ever see real-life examples of items people have sewn on which they have used the decorative stitch capabilities of these machines. I see a lot of "samples," where someone has taken the time to sew a line of each different decorative stitch on a piece of fabric, but that's as far as it goes, so I have trouble understanding the obsession with the machines with decorative stitch capabilities. I am one of the few people who loves the older straight stitch machines. Most people are looking for the later models, like the Supernovas. I have five Supernovas. I hardly ever sew on them. The machines I use most often for my projects do one thing and they do it very well. They sew forwards and backwards. That's it. And you have seen how much stuff I churn out on those machines. 

Obviously, the only thing that makes me a "collector" is the fact that I have a lot of sewing machines in my house. 

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I have hospital list again today, so it's going to be another weekend of tomato sauce production. This is the last batch and it's going to be split between a few more quarts for us and a bunch of pints for the kids. I might get to the pumpkins this weekend, too, but I'll have to see how things go. I want to block out a few hours to get the blog tour bag cut out. 

I took the BMW in yesterday to have the summer tires taken off and the snow tires put on. Before the government (don't get me started) mandated those stupid tire pressure sensors on cars, the husband would have just changed them out here. Now I have to take the car in and pay $60 for the tire place to switch them. I try to do it as early as I can. Snow tires are legal after October 1. Waiting until the first snowfall to switch tires—which is what most people do—just about guarantees an hours-long wait at the tire place. I started working at 4 a.m. yesterday morning and by 9 a.m. I had knocked out more than two-thirds of my quota for the day. I got to the tire place around 9:30 and was third in line. (None of these places will take appointments. It's all first-come, first served.) It takes about 45 minutes to do the actual exchange; I was there for a little over an hour because I had to wait 20 minutes for them to take the car in. But now it's done and I can cross that off the list. When I go to Spokane and to see DD#1 in Boise, I am going to be driving over some mountain passes and I didn't want to do it without the snow tires on. 

I ran a few more errands and then came home and finished working in the afternoon. It makes for a long day, but at least I have the flexibility to split things up. I also had Ali's little guy for about 45 minutes. He is at such a fun age but I just have to laugh because the first thing he said when he walked in was, "Where's Tom?" Both he and our other neighbor's little boy are fascinated by the husband. I think that when they are a bit older, the husband is going to have a couple of little shadows following him around. 

Wednesday
Oct042017

It's Time for Some Selfish Sewing

I finished the tote bag for DD#1 last night. I like the way it turned out and I hope she is happy with it. If she uses it and decides she wants another one with modifications (this one is a bit on the small side), I still have another big chunk of this fabric:

The other side has a zipper pocket between the handles. I used cotton velveteen for the handles (folded four times so it's pretty sturdy). Technically, this bag is darn near perfect. I can't think of a single thing that I would like to go back and redo, except perhaps to make it bigger next time. The stripes match at the sides, the lining hangs perfectly, the topstitching is lovely, and I even remembered to put the purse feet on it:

I am pretty proud of myself. It feels like my bag-making skills have taken a giant leap forward. I really could not have done this without that industrial Necchi. It just plows through those layers of fabric and fleece interfacing like they are nothing, and that's without a motor other than my legs operating the treadle. 

With this off the list and the reprieve of not having to make a control box cover for the boom truck, the decks are pretty well cleared for working on the blog tour bag. I am pretty sure I know what fabric I am going to use (some Kaffe Fassett that I have been hoarding). I just need to get it out, press it, and start cutting pieces. I would like to sew that bag on the Singer 31-20 industrial, but I need the husband's help in getting the Necchi out of the treadle table and the 31-20 put in. Those machines are simply too heavy for me to lift. I suspect that 31-20 is going to sew just as nicely as the Necchi. 

The husband and I have had a couple of conversations about my sewing list, which can be summed up thusly:

People like to put things on my sewing list. "Could you make this for me?" I don't mind making things for other people, but my own projects start to get pushed further and further down. My sewing time is limited and I'd like to spend it making stuff for me, too. 

Sometimes it really isn't cost-effective for me to make things. The husband asked me if I could make him some new handkerchiefs. Why yes, I could—after I go to Jo-Ann Fabrics and hunt down some white lawn fabric, bring it home, cut it up, get out the rolled hem foot for my sewing machine, struggle with getting the hem started (I have done it and it isn't that easy) and spend the time hemming a dozen handkerchiefs. Or I could go to Target tomorrow and buy a box of handkerchiefs for him. The dog beds are another example. I made the dogs a dog bed a few years ago. The inside bed was poplin stuffed with fiberfill and it had an outside cover made of fleece. It was great until Rusty—who is 14 years old and senile—started ripping the bed apart out of boredom. I didn't think he could rip that poplin, but he did, and thus the fiberfill began drifting all over the living room. I could make them another dog bed, but by the time I buy everything at Jo-Anns and factor in the cost of my time, it's just cheaper to buy them one of the nice canvas dog beds that the farm store sells, except that we had to buy two of them because they are a bit smaller than the dog bed I made and Lila was hogging the first one. Rusty is 14 years old and senile and I don't think he should have to sleep on the carpet because Shamu won't move over. Still, to have that project crossed off the list was worth the extra money. Just because I know how to do something doesn't mean it's cost-effective for me to do it. The trick is knowing when it is. 

And the constant, recurring theme of my life, which is that if I didn't love my transcription job so much, I could probably quit it and still not have enough hours in the day to get everything done. 

Now I am going to do some selfish sewing. I am going to work on the blog tour bag but I am also going to start working on some stuff for me. I really really really want to draft a knit fabric T-shirt pattern with long and short sleeves so that I can start making my own shirts on the serger instead of buying ones that are too short at the store. I am still going to do some quilts here and there, but I think this fall is going to be devoted to bags and clothing. 

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The Ritzville quilt has been delivered to the people from our church who are going over to the sale this weekend. I would have liked to have gone and seen the quilt auction in person, but I have hospital list on Friday and have to work until 5:30. By then, it's really too late for me to be driving over to Spokane, and I didn't want to drive over Saturday morning and have to come back Saturday night. 

I am still plugging along on that Necchi BU Mira. If I put a machine on the kitchen table, I can work on it here and there as a break between doing reports, and quite a bit gets done that way. It is pretty clean inside and out now. I am going to give it a good coat of wax and then start putting the jewelry back on it. I might have the motor attached and have it sewing by this weekend. Stay tuned. 

Sunday
Oct012017

Motor Work

I've got one Necchi that is a pretty serious project machine. It's a Necchi BU Mira that popped up on Craigslist about five minutes from my sister's house in North Carolina. She went and retrieved it for me and had it shipped out to Montana. This poor machine has been abused; I am pretty sure it had been left out in the the rain or in a leaky building for some period of time. I had to buy it and attempt to clean it up just because I felt bad for it. No machine, and especially not a Necchi, should be treated like that. 

After it arrived, I got most of the machine disassembled and started cleaning it. This is a model that I am not that familiar with, however, and it was such a daunting task that I shelved it about a year ago and haven't looked at it since. You can learn a lot in a year, though. The Necchi Facebook group is a fabulous place to pick up tips and tricks and ideas. Members post pictures of their machines, a lot of brainstorming happens, and something that once seemed like an insurmountable problem suddenly has a solution.

This model came with a two-speed transformer to allow for high-speed sewing and low-speed sewing. My BF Mira (the straight stitch version of this model) also has the same kind of transformer. I am sure that the Necchi engineers had a good reason for this design—after all, I am the person who is always insisting that a faster machine is not necessarily better—but after 50 or 60 years, these transformers seem to have a lot of problems. 

I mean, look at this:

 

The first thing to notice is that somone took off the original Necchi motor, which would have been sort of a sage-green color to match the machine, and replaced it with a White motor. (White as in the sewing machine company White, not the color of the motor, which is gray.) It was kind of cobbled toegther to make it work. 

Let's have a closer look at the wiring:

Yeah, no. 

I am willing to tackle a lot of projects in the name of learning new skills, but if I ever decide to work on a transformer, it's going to be one where I have a chance of succeeding. I think this one is beyond redemption. 

That leaves me with the problem of a machine without a motor. The BU Mira could—like that pink Esperia—find new life as a treadle, but I am out of treadle cabinets and out of places to put more. I could also wait for a replacement motor/transformer to show up on eBay, but they are pretty scarce. 

One of the newer members on the Necchi Facebook list came into possession of a Necchi BU Nora. She's here in the states, but the machine is wired for use in Europe. She asked for help and ideas for getting it wired for use in the US. It's been a fascinating brainstorming session and it spurred me to go take a look at the boneyard and see what I might be able to do with that BU Mira. 

Some people think that if you're going to "restore" a machine, you should keep it as close to the original configuration as possible. I am not a purist. I would rather have a machine that runs in a slightly different configuration than have a large paperweight. Just because that machine originally came with a transformer doesn't mean that it needs a transformer to run. After all, there are plenty of other Necchi models that don't have transformers and they work just fine. I've also amassed quite a collection of extra bits and bobs for various machines. The first thing I did was to see if the motor bracket for a Necchi sans transformer (like Vittorio) would fit on that machine. It does:

It's not the same color, but that's not a deal-breaker. 

I have lots of spare motors—mostly Singers, but I also have two Necchi motors. One is black. I am not sure where it came from. The other one happens to be the same sage green as the Necchi Mira. It came off a Pfaff 30 that got turned into a handcrank. I have no idea what a Necchi motor was doing on a Pfaff machine, but I see these kinds of Frankenmotor setups all the time. It's not a requirement to put a Necchi motor back on this machine, obviously, but I have them and I might as well use them, especially if one of them matches the color of the machine. 

Neither of those motors was ready to use. I think the machines they had been attached to had been removed from their cabinets and the wires were just cut. That happens a lot. If you're lucky, whoever is doing the cutting leaves a fair bit of wire attached. Each of these motors had about 8" of wire, which gave me plenty to work with. I just had to splice a new, longer wire onto the existing wire. 

I am not an electrician by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a few basic skills. I can solder like nobody's business. I am pretty picky about my soldering and I practiced a lot until I could do it really well. This afternoon, while I was waiting for the second canner load of tomato sauce to process, I got out my wiring supplies, took the motors apart and cleaned them, and spliced new, longer wires and plugs onto them. Each individual wire gets covered with heat-shrink insulation after it has been spliced, and then both wires together get covered in another layer of heat-shrink insulation. It might be overkill, but the husband observed that my splices are so well insulated that I could sew outside in the rain if I wanted to.  

So now I have two Necchi motors that work and are ready to put back on machines. The BU Mira still needs a fair bit of TLC before I am ready to put the motor on it, but having a working motor for that machine has given me a reason to resume the task of cleaning it. It's never going to win any beauty contests. If I can get it to the point where it sews again, though, I will have accomplished something. 

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I got a reprieve from sewing a cover for the control box on the boom truck. The husband had rented the truck to a contractor friend of his and the guy brought it back sporting a new control box cover (commerically made). I am sure I will have to make a new cover eventually, but I can move that one off the list for now. I got the handles sewn onto DD#1's tote bag this morning before church. The next big task is to sew the zipper at the top and then put the bag and the lining together, but I can see the light at the end of that project. I'd like to get the parts for the blog tour bag cut out next weekend. I have a self-imposed deadline of the end of October for completing that one. 

And more than half the tomato sauce is done, hallelujah! 

Saturday
Sep302017

Smells Like Money

Our denominational board had a meeting in Portland this weekend. I couldn't be there in person because I had hospital list, but I was able to attend last night and this morning via video linkup. This morning, before the meeting, I went out to the garden for an hour or so. The forecast for the coming week is cold and rainy, and snow as low as 5000 feet (we are at 3250 feet). Today was really the last day to bring stuff in. 

I retrieved all of the pumpkins and put them in the greenhouse:

I'll get these cut up and canned, probably next weekend. 

I dug up the beets, some of which are going to our pastor, Jeryl, for him and his wife to can up for the winter. We had a bumper crop of very large beets this year. 

And I made one last pass through the tomatoes, filling two 5-gallon buckets full of the last of the Cherokee Purple and the Oregon Star to bring in and ripen. Whatever is left out there is probably going to freeze tonight. 

I was able to put my laptop on the counter in the kitchen and participate in the meeting while I worked on tomatoes. The ones I cooked down yesterday had to be run through the food mill, which removes the skins and the seeds (the chickens get them). It doesn't take long but it's kind of messy. I also put two more kettles of tomatoes on the stove to cook down. At one point, it looked like this:

I have a lot of kettles and I use all of them during canning season. I was wishing for those extra two burners today, but I made it work. 

Some day, I should do a formal analysis of how much money canning all this stuff saves us on food. As the husband says when he passes through the kitchen, it "smells like money." 

Right now, I am waiting for a full canner load of 14 quarts to process. I will probably have that much to do again tomorrow afternoon with the tomatoes I am cooking down now. This year's supply will be about half done at that point. The rest will be divided into quarts for us and a couple of loads of pints for the kids. 

The husband has been busy this weekend, too. Our renters are away, so he took advantage of the opportunity to install a new propane stove in the living room of the rental house (the old one needed a part that was no longer available) and to do some other maintenance. 

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Beyond putting that Necchi in the treadle base the other night, there really has been no sewing. I keep telling myself that I will make time to sew tomorrow, but tomorrow gets here and something comes up. The schedule will ease up after canning is done, but I need to start working on the bag for the blog tour. Also, DD#1's tote bag is about 75% done. It would be nice to be able to take it to her in a couple of weeks. 

It's not like I am sitting around eating bon-bons and watching TV. 

Friday
Sep292017

Another Necchi Treadle

It's no secret that I love my treadle sewing machines. My big Necchi industrial in the treadle base is probably my favorite machine ever after Vittorio. There is just something so relaxing about treadling. It's great for bags, too, because I can sew slowly over the tricky parts. 

I've got a couple of treadles in the house, but only the big Necchi and my little Lotus (in the living room) are operational. There is a nice Singer oak treadle base in the bathroom in the basement; I would probably use it more often if it weren't in the bathroom in the basement, but that's really the only place for it at the moment. I also have a smaller, more streamlined Singer treadle base upstairs in DD#1's old room, which is now my main fabric room. That particular cabinet came with a nice Singer 15 sewing machine with the decal set nicknamed the Royal Air Force, or RAF, because of the similarity to the RAF eagle. It's a nice machine but I haven't used it much. Given the choice between sewing on a Necchi and sewing on a Singer, I am probably going to choose the Necchi every time (with the exception of my Singer Rocketeer). 

Two people on the Necchi Facebook group recently posted pictures of Necchi machines that they put into treadle bases, and that inspired me to get one of my domestic Necchis set up as a treadle. I had several candidates:

  1. A very nice Necchi BF Mira straight stitcher, which my friend Peter picked up for me in Seattle a couple of years ago. At our first meeting in Spokane, he brought me the Mira and I gave him the Meister I had found in Whitefish. The Mira is a great machine in a gorgeous case (Necchi cases in good condition are hard to find) and I should use it more often. It's not in a cabinet, so I don't tend to leave it out. I'd probably have to take the motor off, too, to put it in the treadle cabinet, and I am loathe to do that. That machine has a transformer with a two-speed switch which is very handy. (The Mira also comes in a zig-zag version. I have one of those, too, but it's project machine as it is in pretty bad shape.) 
  2. One of my Supernovas...I would still like to treadle a Supernova. All of my treadles are straight stitchers, which is fine as those are the machines I use most often. (How is it that I don't need zig-zag?). A Supernova would give me zig-zag capabilities in a treadle cabinet. The Supernovas are pretty beefy machines, though. If I am going to put a Supernova in a treadle cabinet, I am probably going to put it in the heavy oak Singer cabinet in the basement bathroom. 
  3. A Necchi Esperia. This is another straight stitching machine that I got in a trade for a Singer 201. The Esperias are very much like the Miras and originally came with a two-speed motor. The machine came to me without a motor (which is why I think it was up for sale/trade). I have halfheartedly looked for a replacement motor for it, but they are pretty rare and expensive, probably because the machine is pink and the motor was, too. The chances of me finding an original motor for it at a price I want to pay are slim to none. I kicked around the idea of just mounting a plain old replacement motor on it and using it that way, but that task hadn't yet floated to the top of the to-do list. 
  4. A Necchi BU Nova. This is another zig-zag machine and this one also came to me without a motor. It would be ridiculously easy to slap a replacement motor on it, though, because this machine is black and it didn't come with a two-speed motor. It's also in a nice case and I like to keep my portable machines in cases as portables. 

It's widely known among Necchi collectors that putting Necchis in Singer treadle cabinets can be problematic because of the diamater of the hinge pins. Most Singer hinge pins are too big for the holes in the Necchi machines. Either the pins have to be ground down or the holes in the machine enlarged. Sometimes, though, the machines fit without any modifications. I've got a collection of extra hinge pins and I had already tried some of them in the Esperia and found that they fit. I figured that if the hinge pins in the treadle cabinet were too big for the Esperia, I could always swap them out with a set that I knew would fit. I lucked out, though. The Esperia fit the hinge pins on the cabinet just fine. It took about 10 minutes to take the Singer 15 out and put the Esperia in:

The belt still needs to be treated with belt conditioner and shortened a bit. I was too tired to do that last night. I am not sure what projects will get done on the Esperia, but it's lovely to have found a home for this pretty little machine. (It's pink!)

And the Singer 15? It will probably get made into a handcrank. I'd love to have a Necchi handcrank but their motor/handcrank mounts are different from the Singer motor mounts and no one—to my knowledge—makes an aftermarket handcrank kit for Necchis. Those Singer 15s make fabulous handcranks. 

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I have hospital list today. I can't leave my computer except for very short breaks, so I usually end up doing all my domestic tasks on hospital list days. Today seemed like a good day to start cooking down tomatoes for sauce. I've got two big kettles of tomatoes on the stove right now. I need to get the freezers cleaned out before the pigs go to the processor. I went to town yesterday afternoon, so on my way, I stopped at Tera's and dropped off the chickens that we processed for her last weekend. She had given us three to do and Jeryl had extras, so I gave her four more. She and I are going to Spokane together in a couple of weeks. I need to take DD#1's snow tires down to her in Boise and the BMW needs scheduled service. I took two weeks off from work to go to Italy, so I don't want to overdo it by asking for more time off. It seemed to be that the best way to get it all done would be to take off a Thursday and Friday. I'll drive over to Spokane on Wednesday after work, take the BMW in very early on Thursday to have it serviced, then drive from Spokane to Boise after lunch (it's about six hours). I'll spend Friday and Saturday with DD#1 in Boise and come home on Sunday. Tera is going to take her Audi over to Spokane on that same Wednesday and have it serviced in the afternoon. We'll get a hotel room for Wednesday night and drop my car off at the BMW dealer for service and drive around Thursday morning to all the fabric stores. 

I love traveling with Tera. We were roommates when we went with our girls to eastern Europe in 2009. We have a lot of common interests and we always have lots to talk about when we get together. She totally gets my need for periodic road trips, even if it's just to Missoula. We must both have the same itchy foot.