Thursday, August 8, 2013


I killed my primary machine Monday.  I was so upset for a little while.  It was more than 20 years old and had it's share of missing/broke things.  The reverse for zig zag quit working some time ago, the bobbin cover has been held on with tape for a couple years.  Sears doesn't make the same cover anymore, bad design from day one.  The top tension disk has been acting up for the past year or so, the thread would jump or get lodged somehow deep in a crevice and the thread would break, requiring rethreading from spool down.  It was a random problem, but I couldn't see enough of the mechanism to identify the problem.  I started quilting and got  big ugly loops on the bottom. I played with the tension for many attempts and changed top and bottom threads and the needle with no success and decided to go in and look at that disk, requiring taking the machine housing all the way off, bottom, sides, top, and front.  I couldn't see anything broken and it seemed to function ok, so I cleaned it thoroughly and put it back together.  RRRrrrrrrrRRRR silence.  The thing powers up, the stitch number pops up on the screen (alternating with SP for bobbin winding function), the needle moves into place for straight or zig zag.  The motor will not engage.  Will not.  I called a repair guy and he said I probably shorted out the circuit board when I opened the front housing, that many are designed to do that if "unauthorized" repairs are attempted.

I knew I was risking it when I went in. I've done so many of my own repairs in my life (plumbing, electric, carpentry, masonry, auto, computer, etc etc etc) that I didn't think I'd REALLY kill it.  I'm still taking it to the guy next week to ensure it's not a loose thingy that I didn't see.   I attempted it myself because I really can't afford a repair.  Of course I can't afford a new machine.  I do have my back up.
A machine this old should have a name.  Maybe Ethyl.
I bought this one years ago at a thrift store hoping the cabinet would work for my (dearly departed) newer Kenmore, it didn't.  It does have a pretty straight stitch.  I can't recall if the zigzag ever worked for me, it doesn't now.  It also won't wind a bobbin, I believe it needs a belt, not sure. (update on Thursday- I've fixed the bobbin winder, though its still tricky and stiff to start, and I can engage zig zag if I pop off the top cover, no screws involved, and nudge it into place). I had just pulled it out to see if I got better scant 1/4 seams with it than with the primary and I think I do.  As I recall from previous play, it did not do a better job with free motion quilting, but I (just last week) did order a new darning foot that may improve that a great deal.
Because this one knew nothing about the missing darning foot for the primary
and this darning spring just wasn't getting results on ole Ethyl.
I have been so motivated by all I've found on the internet about sewing.  I had pretty much stopped sewing the last 10 years or so, as fabric stores moved further and further from where I live.  Fabric prices skyrocketed too, and I earned more and didn't feel guilty about paying some premium dollars sometimes for nicer ready to wear, stuff I would have been compelled to make at home years ago.  Then I started seeing such fabulous trends with sewing from simple designs for kids and got sucked in by the sewing revival. Quilting and retro and knock offs, sewing is not the chore that it once was when you had to buy a pattern and alter it and get the correct fabric and trims and sew it the way the pattern said to.  I already know so much about sewing, hundreds of tips and techniques, but I was getting exciting clicks and pops as I recognized I would be able to use that knowledge in more free and personal choice ways.
I was motivated and excited and inspired, but frequently I was irritated too.  I read many blogs, and I truly admire the authors and, well, artists- but!!! I get miffed sometimes when I see their machines and fabrics and equipment, especially when included are pics from their nice cameras of their nice homes and families.  I think, oh, yeah, SURE if I had a hubby that provided like that I could let creativity flow a little more freely too.  Then I feel bad because it is petty.  Everyone has their own stuff to deal with.  So I'm feeling bad because I don't have the funds (or the TIME!) so many bloggers have, and then I feel bad because I'm envious.  It's not just the money either, it's the whole wholesomeness I see, the pictures of on our way to church and when we get home we will have these muffins with stuff from my garden.  Those pretty houses!!  I have peeling lead paint I'm trying to protect the grands from, a failing septic, my bumper is duct taped onto the car and I work alternating nights with my daughter so when I have a night off I'm babysitting nights and days when I'm home, and she watches the baby nights I'm gone and days I sleep.  No vacations in my world.  Shopping trips are rare and small.  I've had issues with drugs and people in my house that made me fear home invasions from junkies and police.  We have had theft issues, money and electronics can walk right out of here.  The refrigerator is a nightmare of leftovers and please don't touch from several families, dishes are abandoned and no one will claim them. 
 I've wanted to put some of this out here, not because I want to portray my life like some daytime reality show (I HATE those shows) but because my life does seem so different from all those other bloggers.  I was pregnant with kid number five and my oldest was 6 when I became a single parent and homeless. I am so grateful that I CAN let my adult kids that need a place still to stay here.  I couldn't give them cars and college to help them launch into the American dream, but no one is living out of a bag on a street.  I mentioned drugs, but none of my kids (or anyone currently in the house) is in need of rehab, and I'm really grateful for that because it's a reality for lots of their friends. I don't like all the problems that are in my life, I take responsibility for most of them.  I'm trying to stop taking responsibility for things that aren't mine.  I just feel funny sometimes trying to write about sewing with a curtain over all the stuff going along side.  I could say nothing (if you don't have anything nice to say, says Thumper's mother), but that feels restrictive.  I could  put a pitcher of pretty lemonade on the table as a backdrop for a photo and it IS nice to put your best foot forward, but what about other folks who have holes in their socks while looking at what I'm trying to show about sewing?  I want to be honest about the whole thing is what I'm saying.
I do ramble on.  So, while I see all these new Bernina's and drool, Janome's, I know it's possible to sew great stuff on very basic machines.  And because I currently have no other choice, that's what I'm going to try to do.  I may buy a new used machine from the repair guy (he sharpens scissors, I suck in breath!) but it will probably be another old one.  I'd like one that could use all my snap on feet from the departed Kenmore, but I know I can buy an adapter shank for that.  Ethyl here loads needles with the eye in front and the flat side of the needle to the rear, so none of my twin needles will work.  I'd like a machine that can take those needles, oh, and the walking foot.  I would like a free arm, and a blind stitch.  Auto buttonhole only if it truly does a nice one, the Kenmore had the feature but it frequently was not pretty. I do not want an older computerized model.  They don't hold up like the old work horses.
I never was big on sewing "cheaply" because if I'm going to invest my time I want the best end product I can get, and that means have some decent equipment and quality materials.  But frugal, YES.  I like my sewing gadgets and goodies, but I'm going to make do with what I've got.  Having said that, also just before busting the Kenmore, see what I ordered and has arrived:

These are fine line and continuous line rulers, hard to see, from
The two together cost about $60 including shipping, but I tried for two weeks to work out some kind of homemade job without success, and was obsessing about them.  I'll be able to do that beautiful precision ruler work I love so much in longarm quilting on a domestic machine with these.  As soon as the darn darning foot gets here, maybe today.  I do allow myself a certain amount of spending yearly on hobbies, and this and the feet (and needles I can't use now) just about put me there.  A used sewing machine will put me over, but I could put it on next year's tab, it's almost September!
Enough rambling.  I have a loose toddler with a sucker and a bag of crackers in here.  And the dog needs a bath.

1 comment:

  1. Stay strong mama! Found your blog via malepatternboldness, making my way through, like your humor