on how I acquired my sewing machines, Part II

May 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

With this in mind, I could now return to my daily craigslist and freecycle search. Since then, we’ve acquired another freecycle sewing machine and a couple of utility tables.

Then, I got another freecycle find, but even after cleaning and oiling, the tension is still off. I think if I play with it some more, it might work better. I know where to take them if my cleaning and oiling doesn’t do the trick. This one is a Singer 288 Fashion Mate. The picture above doesn’t really show that very well, but I’m not trying to sell them so just admire the fact that it’s solid metal and the base is cast iron. Yup. Cast iron.

My dad tells me that the sewing machines his mom and aunts used in their seamstress and bridal business in Colombia were all heavy and could do one stitch, straight.

I also just saw another sewing machine, an old Kenmore, on craigslist that has a couple of problems but it’s $1, so how can I say no. Right now, I’m hosting two sewing school machines and will add the Kenmore to it soon. Meg has three to add to the bunch, bringing our collective total to 6… but we still need to make sure everything is working and that we have a couple of working back-ups.

It’s fun to be scouting for sewing machines and we’re getting a lot of sturdy workhorses.

I should also touch on the serger I acquired, since I got it off ebay. It was my first purchase on ebay and I learned a lot from buying there. I don’t think I’ll buy anything else off there unless I can see clear pictures, the description is clear and not in one big paragraph, which can be very manipulative. I also paid more for the serger I got… but it’s turned out to be just fine and works great. I’ve been serging most, but not all my raw edges, and have come to depend on its balanced stitch. Here’s the picture I put up from another website. I keep forgetting to get a picture of my own, but it’s the same thing:

Buying used sewing machines and acquiring them from craigslist and freecycle takes a lot of faith. Only a dealer can charge a large sum for a “working machine”. You see that phrase thrown around all over craigslist. In the end, you really want to know if the manual, the cord, foot pedal, original (and additional) feet, cams or fashion disks, among other things, come with the machine. It’ll cost you quite a bit to assemble the manual, cord, pedal, etc. So, if you see a machine that says the motor runs but nothing else comes with it, only agree to pay $10 for it. They are missing a lot of pieces and are probably fishing for someone who will pay whatever high price they’re asking. You’d also do well to ask the seller if the machine was recently oiled and greased, cleaned of all lint (and by whom), as well as how often it was cleaned and oiled (and by whom).

If you sew every day, and your machine calls for it, make sure you put one drop of oil in the parts indicated in your manual. It’s a small thing to do that will prolong the life of your machine. Also, when you change the bobbin, take the time to vacuum or otherwise clean out the lint and gunk- especially under the feed dogs. You might find that your tension problems were due to the dirt that had accumulated.

Also, since I’m on a roll telling you what I’ve learned, make sure you replace your needle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone come to me and tell me they’ve never replaced the needle.. and that the needle came with the machine when they got it from some family member who sewed a lot. Change that needle, you’ll be glad you did. Also, change your needle after 6-8 hours of sewing. It makes a difference.

These are just a few of the things you can do at home to ensure enjoyable sewing time and time again. If, however, your machine just won’t produce a nice stitch, take it in to a reputable repair shop and have it serviced. It’ll be worth what you pay.

That’s my story. I’ve got more sewing machines than I know Josh would want to see lying around our small home, but he knows that they’re there for a greater purpose. Right now, it’s all investment (all the consumed time cleaning and oiling and taking machines to the repair shop), but once we get going on classes, I realized what a great thing it is.

If someone wants to learn how to sew but doesn’t have a machine and doesn’t know what to buy, they can come and take a class with us and find out, firsthand, what they like. I know I wish I could have tried out some used models to get familiar with them before buying one. Plus, the repair shop I go to sells used models for as little as $20. He’s a good guy and I get the feeling he wouldn’t let you walk out of his shop with a machine that didn’t work.

All in all, if your machine doesn’t work, you probably won’t feel inspired to sew. Old or new, whatever works for you. Just sew!

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