Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That Little Sew and Sew

Here I have been singing praises about my tiny sewing machine without telling you how to get one. Well, I can highly recommend this jewel. I have had mine for over two years now. I recently sewed up heavy quilted material to make my day bed pillows for lounging. It pulled through like a trooper. I also sewed up new linen curtains.  I have hemmed and repaired clothes with it.  The stitching is beautiful. Overall the machine is about the length of my hand spread out. It may look like a toy, but it performs like a regular sewing machine. The machine can practically pay for itself after one or two projects. 


(Links in this blog are underlined or a different color or both).
This tiny sewing machine is sold under different names, at  various prices with an array of  accessories, depending on who you buy yours from.   As I write this, Amazon has this machine for $17.99 with free shipping. 
My machine was bought at Big Lots for $14 in 2009. The sticker is still on the box. Recently I saw them in Big Lots again, but the price had gone up. Mine came with a foot pedal and a 110 cord. The machine is made to also operate on 4 AA batteries in the bottom compartment. You could use rechargeable batteries with it. If you buy the right gadget, it can also operate on a 12volt adapter cord. 

It is a must-have for anyone living in an RV, or on a boat or off the grid.  I always use the foot pedal, but it does have push button sewing.  It has 2 speeds, slow and not so slow. Amazingly I had to seriously pay attention when I was sewing on fast.  It's not as fast as a big expensive machine, but it does move along at a good clip, making nice neat sturdy stitches. 

If your thread keeps breaking, throw out the thread and get new thread. This was a common problem when I lived in the Caribbean.  The stores let their wares sit on the shelves for years and years, often with open air shopping. Sometimes I had to toss out several spools of thread before I finally ended up with one that wasn't dry rotted. 

Mine, when I bought it, came with about a 100 piece sewing kit with lots of bobbins, assorted thread colors, spare needles and other sewing accouterments like a needle threader, scissors and so on. The machine is made to use two bobbins for sewing, or it has a pop-up spindle for regular thread. It threads together like a big machine, the bobbin arrangement is similar. Once you load the bobbin, you have to hand start the sewing to allow it to pull the loop of thread up through the bottom correctly. Once that is done, you are ready to sew away. When you finish a seam, make sure you gently pull the thread out a few inches, before cutting it. Otherwise you will  be re-threading the needle fairly often. 

When you start or finish a seam, you need to rotate the material around, to "reverse" the sewing for a few stitches, then rotate it back for regular seam sewing. There is no reverse on the machine and no zig zag. It may not be suitable for super stretchy fabrics nor super heavy materials. Having said that, the bedspread I converted to pillows, was quilted, so I was sewing through two layers of that to make the pillows. 

One thing I strongly urge, is that you only buy Singer sewing needles for it. Believe me I have learned this the hard way decades ago. It's still true today. Singer makes the best sewing needles all around. Sometimes when you buy alternate brands, they just aren't milled precisely like Singer and you end up breaking more needles or they aren't sharp enough or lose their effectiveness quickly or simply rust.  Singer needles seem to last an incredibly long time, remain sharp and perform like you expect a needle to. If you buy off brand needles, then don't come crying to me. 

I must admit, I ran through the two included needles that came with the machine rather fast. I don't think they were Singer brand at all. But once I bought some Singer needles, I am still using the first Singer needle I installed. 

Normally I throw out the packing boxes of anything I buy. My RV is very small, there just isn't room for them. However, keeping a sewing machine dust free and safe between projects,  is critical to good operation. So, I kept the original box mine came in since it was small too.  I took a magic marker and drew arrows and wrote left and right on my Styrofoam inserts, so I can remember how to put it back neatly in the box. Well, actually I don't have to remember how, the instructions I wrote on the styrofoam make this very easy for my addled brain.  I put a small plastic baggy over the sewing machine (it came with one), then put it in the styrofoam, then in the box for storage. It takes up very little room. It's one of those gadgets that really justifies the space it occupies. 

Of course I am the same person who said my toaster and blender were taking up too much room and regifted them. I realized I had used the blender once and the toaster less than a half dozen times. I discovered you can toast bread in a hot dry fry pan pretty quickly anyhow or my stove has a broiler setting that also does fast toast. If you like buttery toast, just toss some butter in the fry pan, fire it up, let it melt some, then throw the toast in, toast one side, then flip over and toast the other side. I find medium heat works better than high heat unless you are a fan of very crisp, very dark toast. 

I bought a clear  fishing tackle box  to keep all my sewing notions in. For some fool reason, tackle boxes are cheaper than craft boxes, but virtually the same thing. My sewing notions have expanded to the point, I had to buy a second box but I let it share space with assorted hardware and small parts for my various RV repairs, projects and upgrades. 

You will also need an iron for sewing. Well, if you want nice neat seams.  If you don't mind sloppy, then forget the iron.  My RV came with a vintage Black and Decker folding  travel iron with optional steam, that works just fine. Don't iron on a vinyl table cloth like I did. It makes a mess! (See this December 11 post for more on these projects.)  Iron on top of a bath or beach towel or buy an ironing blanket. 



This magnetic ironing mat, looks super useful.  I may save up the $9.99 to get one at some point. I suppose it will work on a regular table too. Several campgrounds I have stayed in had metal picnic tables. My stove top in my RV has a metal cover to make more work space. I suppose the magnets keep it from shifting around while you iron. Hmm... talk about double and triple duty in an RV!  

In my case, I like to be a fair weather sewer. I use a big picnic table outdoors, so I can spread out and make a huge mess, while doing my projects. It does seem to go faster, when you have room to spread everything around, especially when I was trying to sew up curtains that were  8 feet wide but only 30 inches tall. 

For my jumbo pillows, I sewed velcro strips on the fourth edge. I am super lazy and didn't wish to hand sew the final pillow seam. Frankly, I just don't have the patience for hand sewing. Zippers are a tad difficult to get installed correctly.  By sewing the velcro on the fourth pillow seam, I am able to stuff the pillow, then velcro it shut. This means the pillow cover is easily washable as well. 

Living in this old mini motorhome has its moments. But i find by keeping it more or less nicely decorated, comfy and maintained, I am much happier dealing with the small space. I figure the way my old hospital bills and current erratic income are going, that I may be in this old motorhome a very long time. 

But I spent over 10 years living on a small sailboat at anchorages, not at a marina, so I figure living in the motorhome is right up my alley. 

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the info on the mini machine, I just placed an Amazon order, right before I read this. I'll have to go back to Amazon's site and search around for this machine. I have a Big Lots member card, and they send emails to me, but I don't know if there are any near my location. Thanks again, Teri

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  2. I used to have a small machine like that. I bought a little hand held one last year, but haven't used it yet. I carry a small ironing board that I got at the Dollar General store in my closet.
    Good tip in the tackle box thing - thanks for the tip!

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  3. I posted the link to the sewing machine above.

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  4. I got this machine for a Christmas present last year. What a joke. It wouldn't stitch anything thicker than a bed sheet. Luckily, the person whom I received it from gave it to me with the intention of being a joke. I am glad to hear that someone had good luck with it.

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