Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Blow Out (Off Topic)

 "OK, Wilson, only 40 miles to go and we can get out of this car."

I know he can't understand a word I say but it made me feel better.  We were on the last leg of our first day of the two day trip returning home after visiting Mom in NC.  We were both tired and hot and ready to be OUT OF THE CAR.

"What the H was THAT?" (If you believe for a minute I said "H" I have a very nice piece of real estate I would love to sell you)

I heard a loud bang as a semi was passing me.  My first thought was "backfire." My second thought was "Blow out" when I had trouble steering.

I pulled over, ran around the car and started screaming.  Of course, no one could hear me.  We were on the side of the road on I-81 at about mm 309.  Just outside of Winchester Virginia.  Traffic was fast, heavy and LOUD

I had a blow out.

Yes, I screamed.  I was UPSET for pity's sake.  I had NEVER had a flat tired.  NEVER.  This, clearly was a goner.

Lucky for me, a very nice passer by stopped on the side of the road, backed up and came to help.  He helped me unload the crap from the Sewing Machine Chariot, and we found the spare (a REAL tire I might add) and the jack. What a wonderful young man.    Then the Service Truck pulled up.  HUGE RELIEF.  With his bright flashing lights, drivers had some idea we were in trouble.  The WYM was then able to be on his way after making sure I was OK.

But let me tell you that it was scarey.  The traffic was heavy and no one slowed down or pulled over into the left lane.  The gentleman who helped me admitted that his job is dangerous.  Just the same he was an ANGEL.   I don't use that term lightly.  He was very sincere.   And he was very efficient.  In less than 30 minutes I was on my way again.

"No, you probably shouldn't drive without a spare," Steven said when I told him.  I stopped at an Auto parts store to ask if anyone there knew of a tire center.

"Exit 5 in Hagerstown at Valley Mall.  There's a Sears at the front of the Mall and a Firestone at the back."  said the very nice woman who clearly knew the area.

At 0600 this morning I was up and unpacking the blown out tire from its compartment.  I wanted to be waiting and ready on Firestone's doorstep when they opened.

"Are you coming or going" asked a very nice gentleman out for his morning walk and smoke.

"Going home. Had a blow out on I-81 yesterday, gotta get me a spare."

He looked at the tire, declared it a goner, and agreed that it was unusual for a tire to blow the side wall out.

"I gotta take a picture of this and send it to my husband."

"What, so you can worry him?"

"He's not a worrier. Really."  I assured the very nice Canadian gentleman.  By then we had conversed enough for me to hear that distinctive accent.

He gave me a look that told me he WAS a worrier.   I took the photo anyway. 

 At 0700 I was at the Firestone store; two hour wait.

"How can I help you?" said a very nice woman at the Sears Auto Center.

They opened at 0730 and I was there promptly.  I told her I just wanted one tire mounted on the rim I had in the car.  She recommended that I buy two tires (DUH) but I agreed.  It made sense.  Why try to drive 300 miles with one brand new tire on one wheel and a worn out tire on the other?    So I did.  I bought two new tires and put the spare back in the car.  They were really wonderful at Sears.  If you ever need a tire in Hagerstown, Maryland, go to Sears.  They are efficient, courteous and kind.  Friendly too.   You can sit in the waiting area and, through a large window, watch the mechanics work.

In just over an hour my car was ready.

I wanted to stash the spare in its storage compartment for the trip. One more time (third time's a charm) I unpacked and re-packed the back of the car, as Wilson watched from the back seat. Ever wonder what dogs are thinking?

While I was waiting, I googled  "Tire Side Wall Blow out." and learned that when you have a blow out at high speeds DO NOT jam on the brakes. This is counter intuitive.  It is recommended that you actually accelerate a bit to maintain forward momentum of the car.  Grasp the steering wheel with both hands and gently slow down and steer off the road.  None of us are going to be able to process all of that in the moment of panic after hearing a very loud bang.  But I was lucky in that I didn't realize at first what was going on and I actually did not jam on the brakes.  I doubt I accelerated but I always drive with two hands on the wheel (10 and 2).   I was lucky I didn't end up in the ditch.  Dang Lucky.

Another counter intuitive point about tire side wall blow outs: they occur not due to OVER inflation but due to under inflation.  Under inflation allows too much flex in the wall of the tire which causes   the layers to separate and become weakened.  Keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure and check them before a long trip.  I relied on the idiot light to let me know.  I probably should have checked them with the gauge as well.  It probably doesn't hurt to do a visual check too.

And one last thing.  Restrain your pets when they are in the car.  I was so glad that Wilson had on his seat belt.  I didn't have to worry that he would jump out of the car as I was fumbling, in my panic, for the spare.  He just sat in the back seat and watched.  Never a peep out of him.  What a reasonable dog.

We are home now.  Steven greeted me with open arms, ate dinner with me and then drove off to compete in a swim race tomorrow.  Wrigley seems to have missed me.  Frannie could care less and Wilson does seem bewildered even now.  He is probably anticipating more road time tomorrow.  Good luck fella.  I am not getting in a car until I have to go to work on Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

KENMORE 158.1040

This is a nice little 3/4 sized machine with zig zag, blind hem, stretch straight and stretch zig zag, not to mention the built in button hole and multi-stitch zig zag.  I like this machine.  Some of us call in a Keatherweight.  Get it?

It isn't as diminutive as the Singer 221 but it has more functions.  I can say the that FW has a much nicer straight stitch.  But for travel and convenience I will sacrifice that for the other features of this machine.

I had NO TIME to get ready for my road trip to North Carolina last week.  I grabbed this machine literally off the shelf in the shop.  I bought it in March of 2011 when I was in Chicago.  I am pretty sure that I serviced it when I brought it home.  I hadn't used it since.  Luckily I also grabbed my traveling work kit.  I picked up some q tips and alcohol (isopropyl, well, ok some wine as well.  I deserved a drink, too) at the Ingles around the corner from here.  When I set it up yesterday to test it out I oiled it quickly and tried to wind the bobbin.  The clutch wouldn't release.

So I set to work.   I don't know if the other Keatherweights have a screw off (I did just write that) or a pop off top.  This one pops off.  I just grab it and pull. 
Thus revealing the camstack and inner workings
I oiled everything and I pulled the balance wheel off too and cleaned it so that the clutch would release.

The feed dogs weren't working really well.  The straight stretch stitch is short and the zz stretch stitch would not work at all.  The feed dog didn't drop either.   I wonder what it is about me, my North Carolina trip and Kenmores with feed dog issues? (

Since the feed was messed up I had to pull off the bottom.  This machine has three screws holding the bottom on.  One on the bottom itself and two on either end.  You have to lift up the little extension table to find the one on the left end.
Be careful when you take this off.  The little accessory tray has a flip top lid that is part of the bottom.  Don't break it when you pull it off.

I got the whole thing lubed up.  I even stuffed some grease into the shuttle gears.  I was not in the mood to pull the gear cover off.  I want to sew, for crying out loud ! And I found that the feed dogs were not high enough.  By this time Mom had joined me in the "sewing room."  I told her what the problem was.( I must correct the incorrect information here.  The dime rule applies to diamond shaped teeth.  DreinPA and I disagree about the correct height.  She says the feeds should be half the height of the dime.  I say the full height.)
With regard to these Kenmore feed dogs, they were too low because the underside of the dogs kept hitting the race.  But I did have them too high.  Drein PA states (also see her comment below):
I checked Ray's manual. The bottom of the v shaped portion of the teeth should be level with the plate when the dogs are TDC. I have no idea what TDC means.  But I had to correct the dogs because I could tell they were too high.  I did it by feel and now they are better.)
"I need a dime."

"There is one on the floor in the living room. I can't bend over to get it."
OK  so now I know why the feed wasn't working so well.  But how to fix it?

I studied the whole mechanism.  Then I said "I wonder..."  and violated the first tenet of sewing machine repair.  Lubricate everything first, then get out the screw driver.  Well I HAD lubricated everything.  I just hadn't FREED everything up quite yet.  Still, I couldn't resist.  So I got the screw driver out and turned the screw; it was loose.  In the photo below, you will see that the center is not in its housing.  Before I turned that screw I positioned the feed dog drop lever in the UP position and turned the screw.

Well that explained that.  I adjusted the height of the feed dogs and tightened that baby right down. Much better.   (Not really  see above and below.)
Below, note that the center is now in its housing.
Once I had properly adjusted the feed dog height, low and behold, the feed dog drop worked.
I was hopeful that the problem with the stretch stitches would be solved with that adjustment.  Not so.  I think that the problem there lies with the reverse function.  Stretch stitches go forward and backward.  I also think that the stitch length needs adjusting because the stitches are not gauged correctly; i.e. when set at 6 I get 8 stitches per inch.

I believe this will require some more lubrication and perhaps an adjustment.  I looked at the reverse lever and followed its mechanism.  The bobbin winder is in the way but I could see a screw near the reverse lever that may require tightened or adjusting. I don't feel like pulling the bobbin winder to fiddle with it. 
The arrow points to the screw.  Yes, it is fuzzy in this photo.  I brought along the Canon SLR to use and it just isn't as nifty for this work as the PowerShot.  You can see that it will be easy peasy to remove the BW; two stupid screws.  I should just do it.  But I would rather sew.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Dream

I think that most of us have had it.  That dream, or rather, that nightmare: The final exam is tomorrow and you haven't been to class at all, for the whole semester.  The only thing that saves you is morning.  When you wake up and realize that there was no class and it was just a bad dream.

I had that dream last night somewhere between the katydids and the Barred Owl ( I am here in NC visiting Mom).  But the problem with my nightmare is that there is a class.  It is the TOGA.

I have three weeks to get ready for it and I must be worried.  Not too worried, though.  I took a nap today with Wilson (the only dog I brought along on this trip).  I spotted a Dollar General on Route 191 today.  Maybe they sell those big rolls of raffle tickets.  I can stop tomorrow and see.  Then I will be one step closer to being ready.

Oh, and remember my vow to sew only on PP machines until the TOGA?  It was much easier to grab one of the Keatherweights to bring along.  I got it set up today.  Noisy.  I serviced it and now it is better.  But the poor thing is neglected.  I have to find it a new home.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I was cruising Craig's List tonight.  I found this photo in an ad. 
The machine is lovely and the treadle irons look to be in great shape.  I don't know if it is a 31-15 but it certainly is an industrial strength.  But one could never, ever sew with it.  Unless a little carpentry were involved.  Or it is possible that the top is just sitting on the treadle irons and all it would take would be a quick switcheroo ????

Oh dear, sometimes the ignorance hurts me, sooooo much.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Two Years of Blogging

I posted my first entry on August 13, 2011.  On August 13, 2013 I had a root canal.  Enough said. 
I, understandably, missed the anniversary.

I have made some truly wonderful connections through this blog and I thank you all for reading it and writing to me. 

I am also amazed that I have surpassed 200K page views.  Who knew?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Made in Sweden

I have an electronic machine.  I admit it.  It is a Viking Husqvarna Quilt Designer II.  I used to love it.  Then I learned about vintage sewing machines.  This poor thing gets NO USE.  I have decided to sell it.

I was prepping it for some potential buyers (they backed out) this morning and I did not like the stitch at all.  It also has a bit of a squeak when the thread goes up.  I decided to try to look inside.

There are several smal hex head screws securing the back.  There are two screws in the base that also need to be removed.  I removed them and gently pulled the thing apart.

Oh Yes, I so want to try to work on this baby.  NOT.  I tried to drop one drop of oil onto the needle bar from this angle and I oiled the presser bar as well.  Then I put the back back on.
It sews nicely now.  The stitch is definitely better.  A new needle helps.

Oh and it does say MADE IN SWEDEN somewhere in there.

It is a good machine.  I just don't use it and it needs use.  My plan is to make posters and put them up around the quilt shops locally.  I have it on Craig's List.  Last resort is Evil Bay.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fait accompli

You may notice that the middle seat cushion appears to be a different color.  That is due to the nap of the fabric.  I failed to recognized the fact that there is a nap.  Hence the different appearance.  I am not at all bothered by it.  It's a dog couch, for heaven's sake.  My mother suggests that I claim that this occurred by design. 

"I don't mind admitting I made a mistake.  Sometimes that happens."

"Oh, I never would," said Ingrid.  "I always claimed I meant for it to be that way."

I finished the last two back cushions in between doses of NSAIDs for the root canal aftermath.  Gosh.  It sure is sore.  Hope it feels better tomorrow.  I would like to eat something !

Now that this project is completed, I think I will clean the house.  As you may have noticed, the vacuum cleaner has been put to use.  I did, after all, have to tidy up for the photo shoot.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

BREAKING NEWS ! New Leadership at Sewing Machine Magic.

For all the latest see:

I know. I know.  But if you don't care, don't hit the link.  But you will never know what you are missing.

I started this blog because I am vain and like to write about my adventures with machines.

The SMM blog is supposed to help support the business.  But I can't keep up with two blogs.  So I am a bit of a slacker on that front.  BUT I am not the only author of SMM blog. 

My intent was to have this blog about machine repair, and that one about sewing.  But I just write here most of the time.    And I continue to violate rules of appropriate blogging.  I post too often in one 24 hour period.  I write mostly about me and, while I do care about you, dear readers, if you all went away, I would be sad, but I would still write when I felt like it. 

I do hope to get back to writing tutorials.  I just have too much to do right now, what with getting ready for the TOGA, having root canals and making slip covers.  I have, however,  given up on housework, to save time.


I decided to use the 201 to wind the bobbins for the  GMQ frame 66. .  It is a bit awkward to try to get to the bobbin winder on the 66 when it is installed on the carriage.  I guess I should figure that out.  Or just wind a bunch of bobbins at once.  I do think, ultimately, that a class 15 end loader will be the best machine for the frame.  Bobbin access is important as is throat space.  But bobbin access may trump throat space.  We shall see.  More playtime later this week.

It is quite the contraption, yes?  The bobbin winder needs adjusting because it wouldn't fill the bobbin all the way.  For now, though, its fine.

I love the look of a 201.   I think, though, that I must highlight the stitch length plate.  I need to see those numbers !

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Free Motion Quilting

I love sewing with my 15-90 treadle.  I have been making slip covers (update to follow).  Today I finished the fourth of eight and decided that I wanted to try something else.

I had a mini quilt sandwich pinned together.  It is stenciled with a design and I thought I would try.  I did it.  I have a lot of practicing to go but I thought it isn't too bad for my first attempt.
 Now I realize that this is very rough and that is ok.    I fell down a lot when I first learned how to ski. 
 I did not expect to be an expert first time on the slopes.  Likewise with FMQ.   I have to say, though, that it is a bit easier to control the speed of the machine with the treadle vs an electric machine.  I have done this before using my Viking Husqvarna Quilt Designer II.  But it has a speed control.  I like treading much better. 
I used wax paper on the bed of the machine and on the treadle stand, too.

I used some machine quilting gloves to give me better grip on the fabric.  The edge is hard to manage.  I have to figure that out.  

I proved to myself that I can do it.  Now it is just practice, practice, practice.

On the other hand, I am much better at FMQ on the GMQ frame.

True, I have had more practice but I do think that it is easier to move the machine than it is to move the fabric. 

I am using the Singer 66 for this project.  I love the stitch it is making.  I also love how much room I have to quilt !  When I used this frame with a free arm White Jeans Machine, I had a narrow quilting area.  The 66 affords a much larger space.  It was for that very reason that I spent SO MUCH TIME setting up the 66. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013


We all know the importance of lubrication.  Most of the time the only thing wrong with a machine is that it needs cleaning and oiling.  We can certainly perform magic on these old machines with just a little oil and heat.

I am making slip covers for the couch with Crypton fabric.  I saw it advertised in a dog magazine a few years ago and found some on line.  I bought the fabric three years ago.  It's time.

The material is backed with a waterproof substance which gums up the needle. 

I cut 1.5 inch strips from an old sheet and used them as basting tape.  It helped some.  But not enough.  I switched to a smaller needle, a little bit better.  I cleaned the needle off with alcohol every few inches, definitely a PITA.  Finally I saw this in my stuff drawer in the loft:
I put this on the needle every time I came to a pin.  It is definitely better but I will be glad when this project is over.  Three down, five to go.  I have one small problem.  I over bought.  Usually not a problem when purchasing fabric.  This time it was.


I realize that I did not write about my solution to the gummy needle problem.  Wax paper.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


 Everywhere we go, Alice and I are asked if we are twins.  It happens every time we go to North Carolina to visit Mom.

Are Ya'll Tweeins?  It's hard to spell it with the North Carolina Drawl.

In Chicago, it happened too.   I took this with my iPhone.  I love the background.  Yup  We are seniors.


The clothes are ugly and dark.  But you gotta love the Signature.  All of the All Saints stores are decorated with old sewing machines.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Two towers and a train

This is a Brown Line Train to Kimball
 Alice snapped this photo of me just as the Brown line was pulling in to the Fullerton Stop.  We caught the Red line from Chicago and State after our walk up Michigan Avenue yesterday.  We  switched at Fullerton.  Over my right shoulder is the Trump Tower; over my left is the Sears Tower.    I love this photo because I love the Brown Line. 

I took it all the way from Western to Randolph and Wabash Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings. Every afternoon I would ride it from Randolph back to Western. For a country bumpkin like me, that was a big deal.  But it is so easy to ride the "EL."  An announcement is made for each stop and there is plenty of time to prepare.  As long as you are not engrossed in a book about sewing machine history. 

Still, it was good to get home today. 
I promise.  Sewing machine related posts are coming soon. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

My Kind of Town

I am here in the Windy City for a conference on Diabetes and Thyroid Disease.  I am also visiting my sis.

I am having the ultimate urban experience riding the CTA (AKA "EL" ) and walking A LOT.

No sewing machines in my world for these past few days except for reading Grace Cooper's book as I ride the EL to the Loop.

Now off for some Cajun Music.  Red Stick Ramblers.