Monthly Archives: September 2013


I started a second pair of Järbo Garn Raggi socks for my dad on February 24, according to my Ravelry project page. I worked on them steadily through March (when I had time during rehearsals and teaching and going insane being at the studio 7 days per week) trying to get them done before my parents came out for the show. I didn’t.

They became my take-along project when I was going to the studio to assist in rehearsals for the Minnesota Dance Festival, and I got the first sock done up to the top of the cuff, and then they got set aside through my insane summer of living between Minneapolis, Fargo, and Michigan. Cut to four months later.

The first sock made sense. There was a toe, a foot, a gusset, a heel turn and flap, and a leg.


The second sock made sense right up until the last row. It looked like it was in the middle of the No Hole Heel from YouTube, but the stitch count was correct even though I knew that the next stitch had to be a decrease.


It had been languishing on a pair of size 2 circulars, while the nearly finished sock was on the 3s. I managed to get them switched on the bus, but I just couldn’t figure out the stitch count. This morning, I was able to look at the other sock and found the absurdly simple solution: a purl front and back increase on the center stitch of the heel flap that created the center column of the Elm pattern.

I’m back on track now, following the chart just as per usual, and I have a knitting project to take on the bus with me.

In other news, I bought some navy cotton broadcloth to make M a bedskirt, I have a plan for fixing the reverse lever on my Sears Kenmore for next to nothing, and my new teaching job is going wonderfully.


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Cleaning and reassembly of Sears Kenmore 158.14101 sewing machine bobbin winder

When I bought my $25 Craigslist sewing machine, I managed to get it sewing again relatively quickly with some basic cleaning and lots of oiling. Unfortunately, the bobbin winder refused to work. I popped the bobbin on the post, threaded it just fine, unscrewed the clutch (silver wheel in the middle of the hand advance), clicked the stop lever over into the bobbin, and nothing happened:


The motor turned, but the bobbin just didn’t spin. A quick investigation showed that while the stop lever itself moved, it didn’t affect anything on the underside of the assembly. It’s supposed to push a little rubber tire over to connect with the rest of the machine, but that wasn’t happening.

The logical step was to take it apart and see what was wrong. The first obvious thing was that it was about as filthy as I have begun to expect from this machine, but with more fuzz and less gooey stuff:


I tried to clean it with cotton swabs, but I just couldn’t get into all the crevices. The bobbin winder still looked filthy, the rubber tire didn’t move when I clicked the stop lever over, and the pin only turned very stiffly. So I held my breath and took it completely apart.


Most parts were easy to clean, and I was happy to see that both springs were in good shape, since I had suspected a broken spring might have been the reason that the bobbin winder wasn’t working. It was hard to tell as I was loosening screws and dealing with lots of grime, but I think the large spring may simply have become unseated. Another issue was the serious stiffness of the winder. I put a drop of oil on both the top and bottom of the sleeve that holds the rotating pin, and that helped a huge amount, but I noticed that as I was oiling, black residue was getting flushed out. I spent two entire episodes of Doctor Who oiling, spinning to distribute the oil, and wiping up excess as it flushed out the system. It was pretty gross. I don’t think I got it all, but at least the pin seems to spin freely now with all of this black grime flushed out.


(And, yes, those are the remains of the Manhattan that was M’s contribution to this part of the process.)

Next came reassembly. It was a bit fiddly, and I’m kicking myself for not taking more photos. But here’s the general idea: First align the lower part of the assembly, including the winder, stop lever plate, small and large springs, and the base, and screw together. Check the alignment on these parts, and then finish the assembly by screwing on the stop lever. Piece by piece:

    • Seat the large spring into the hollow in the winder. Make sure that one end goes into the little hole in the bottom of the hollow; as far as I can tell, the large spring doesn’t have an “up” or “down.”
    • Insert the small spring, pin end out, into its hole in the base and set aside for now.
    • Set the stop lever plate onto the winder. Thread the other end of the large spring through the little hole in the stop lever plate, and make sure that the tab of the stop lever plate seats into the hollow in the winder. This part is tricky, but doable.
    • Insert the longer of the stop lever & stop lever plate screws into the aligned holes in the winder and stop lever plate.
    • Align the stop lever plate and winder assembly on top of the base and small spring assembly. Push the small spring in to fit under the tab of the stop lever plate and screw the two pieces together until hand tight. This part was the worst. I didn’t have enough hands, and ended up needing M’s help holding the whole thing together while I tightened the screw.
    • Take the shorter of the stop lever & stop lever plate screws and attach the stop lever to the base, aligning the lower tab into the notch in the stop lever plate. The screws should be snug, but should still allow the lever to move.

Check your work by clicking over the lever, and seeing that the rubber wheel moves.


This whole thing gets reattached to the top cover with the base screws, and will wind a bobbin like a champ. Now to figure out what to do with that acursed broken reverse lever…

EDIT 29 November 2013

For reference, point A is where I was oiling the winder, and point B is where I was wiping up the excess.



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The slow resurrection of a sewing machine

First life, then sewing machines:

I’ve mentioned it briefly before, but I just moved to Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago. My best friend R, her boyfriend A, and my boyfriend M moved down here in May and June, and I spent all summer switching between Fargo, Minneapolis, and Michigan teaching master classes, going on job interviews, and generally trying to see if I could make a life here in the Cities. It was nerve wracking. I quit my job in Fargo before I had signed anything with a studio here. During my last week at that job, I received a jury summons for the week that I was potentially renting a moving truck to move furniture down here. It was chaos. It was miserable.

But then I signed a contract with a wonderful ballet studio here, after finding out that I would get enough hours at a good enough pay rate to fully support myself on ballet teaching, despite the fact that my former boss had been making many sarcastic “good luck” remarks. I found an amazing apartment downtown, near the Orpheum, the Pantages, Crave, Seven, the main public library, the skyway, Target Center and Target Field, and bus and light rail stations. I got disqualified from jury duty because I changed my address a little early (and a big thank you to the amazing clerk of court who advised me when I called to ask what on Earth I should do). Everything fell into place.

Unfortunately, my lovely downtown apartment won’t be available until October 15. It’s in an old bank building that is being converted into lofts right now, and they just pushed the date back, so I’ll be spending a while longer at my boyfriend’s apartment. At least my new apartment will have a lovely kitchen, and some amazing views:



In the mean time, the Gentleman has been good enough to put up with two sewing machines (now three), my bicycle, houseplant, lots of clothing, and too many pointe shoes in his Uptown apartment. In return, I taught him how to use my Brother Pacesetter 3700, use a rotary cutter and mat, cut and sew a pattern, and helped make his costume for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival; he’s working there spinning poi and staff and hula hooping. We’ve also been making fabric covered professional performance quality hula hoops, hopefully for sale on Etsy, but he’s at least managed to recoup all initial costs through the hoops he’s sold at the Ren Fest.

In the mean time, I’m still working on restoring my new old Sears Kenmore. It has layers and layers of gunk on it. I’ve already cleaned this particular bit of the bobbin casing three times with Murphy Oil Soap, which seems to be the best at getting rid of this stuff, but the brown, sticky residue is very resilient:


The outside is mostly clean now (barring little nooks and crannies and spots underneath some levers and knobs), and the moving parts have all been oiled enough to flush out all the nastiness there, so it’s possible to close up the machine and sew very well. M has also made noises about sanding things down, repairing hinges, etc. I say, if he feels like working on restoring the cabinet, more power to him.

Now I’m working on the bobbin winder, which appears to have all parts functional, and was just extremely stiff. I took the whole thing apart to clean because the initial condition was disgusting.


Now it’s in pieces, but it’s probably cleaner than it has been in decades, and it’s well oiled again. I just have to make sure to put it back together correctly, mount it back on the top cover, and see if it works. Here it is earlier, halfway clean.


Despite the fact that the reverse lever broke this afternoon (or was broken all along and I discovered it this afternoon), I have high hopes for this machine. I tested out more stretch stitches this afternoon, and it performed beautifully.

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WIP Wednesday

My current work in progress isn’t sewing, or knitting, or anything like that. It’s this baby:


This machine is a Sears Kenmore 158.14101 that I bought last night from Craigslist for $25. It was filthy. So filthy that after 3 hours of cleaning and lubing, it’s still filthy. I think it was stored in a garage for quite a while, because of the unidentified film of grime covering every remotely exposed part and 90% of the inner workings.

I was very nervous about paying even $25 for this machine, since it was so stiff that I could barely turn the hand advance when I first looked at it. The inner workings looked as though they had been oiled and at least basically taken care of during their life, but the motor could barely turn anything; the fastest speed it could go, pedal mashed to floor, was a stitch about every 2 or 3 seconds. It simply creeped. But it started to loosen up even with a few hand cranks, it looked and smelled like a well-oiled machine, and I took a gamble.

Then I had nightmares all night long about taking steel wool to corroded parts and sanding away until they were nothing, leaving me with a heap of misshapen metal that wasn’t ever going to sew again. But when I woke up and put some (okay, a whole lot of) oil on all the oil points, cranking the whole time, it started to loosen up.

I cleaned the entire exterior three times because the rags were still coming away filthy on cleaning #2. I brushed away bunches of lint, cobwebs, and chunks of congealed oil and fuzz and who knows what from the upper workings. I disassembled the entire bobbin compartment, presser foot, foot plate, and feed dog assembly in order to get out all the dust and unidentified grossness. I decimated my cotton swab supply.


And then I put it back together. Now, it runs at a respectable speed, although the hand advance still has a mysterious squeak, the bobbin winder doesn’t work, and the feed dogs are stuck in the up position. I suspect I have more cleaning, lubing, and adjusting in my future, but I’m actually looking forward to it. It can sew a straight seam or zig zag with aplomb, and I’m very happy.

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And we’re back?

It’s been nearly a year, and so much has happened. Most recently, my summer was consumed with quitting my job in Fargo, finding a new position in Minneapolis, and moving. I’m teaching ballet in the Twin Cities now, staying with my (wonderfully accomodating and supportive and creative and awesome new) boyfriend until my apartment downtown opens up in October, and generally enjoying living in a bigger city with much better public transit and lots more to do.

My gentleman is performing in the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, and making and selling fabric-covered hula hoops there. The making part is with a lot of help from me, but I did teach him how to use the sewing machine very briefly, and on top of basic straight and zig-zag stitching, he can use the quilting guide and buttonholer and wind bobbins. We’re looking into getting him a machine of his own for making the hula hoops, though, because my delicate little Brother is taking a beating producing so many things a much cheaper, sturdier machine could do. I’m thinking he’d do great with one of the vintage Sears Kenmore, Singer, or Janome machines available on Craigslist here.

I’m currently toying with the idea of opening an Etsy shop to sell some felted mittens from a pattern I wrote, and possibly the pattern itself and other things as time allows, and getting into the swing of things with my new job. I’m thrilled to be teaching dance here, and I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to (just barely) support myself on my dance teaching income, but I’m looking for other sources of money, including math and physics tutoring positions, so I can afford a social life downtown as well as the apartment.

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