Category Archives: hardware

Brother Sewing Machine Woes

Remember a while back my main sewing machine (a Brother Embroidery machine) had some problems? Well, I have a quick update – and maybe polling for some more suggestions here. The machine got worse and worse – a larger percentage of the time when I turn it on – it would not go forward normally. So I took the machine to a brother certified sewing machine repair place.

The owner Dave is a nice guy who seems to know his stuff. He said it was because of calibration issues with the feeddog – which makes a lot of sense. He fixed  (I guess – re-calibrated) it – things seems to work great in store when I tried it out. But when I took it home it stopped working well again. It does sew forward about 50% of the time when I turn it on, but it would not sew patterns that require feeddog to go back and forth at all – which is a problem for sewing knit materials. I took it back to Dave – but a funny thing happened – the issue would not reproduce in store. But I took it home and after a few days it went back to its old ways 😦

Does anyone have any suggestions? I think the Dave guy at the store would probably take it back and take a look – but I havent had time to bring the machine back (its kinda far) and I’d like to see if there are anything I can do myself.

Random story there – I actually took both my Brother Embroidery machine and my Grasshopper for them to take a look . Dave said the Grasshopper probably just need some cleaning to get the gunk inside out for it to run smoothly again – which is great. Then he mentioned that he knows a guy who would probably be interested in buying the grasshopper if I want to get rid of it. He mentioned the name and it was so familiar. After some querying it turned out to be the same dude who sold me the hand crank sewing machine!  I am a little tickled by the convergence of vintage sewing machine hobbyists 🙂

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP! Feeddog problem with my sewing machine

Dear readers – my sewing machine is broken!! Before I fork out a large chunk of money to send it in for repair, i was wondering if I can get some tips and suggestions from any of you and do it myself.
I dont think I ever gushed about my brother embroidery sewing machine HE240. Its a nice machine and I’ve been using it almost every week for the past 4 years or so. Recently she started choking. Specifically, i think its feeddog isnt working so well. Sometimes when I turn the machine on, instead of pulling fabric to the back to allow me to sew forward, the feeddog would feed the fabric in the wrong direction. However, all I needed to do is to power the machine off and on again, and try that until it gets in a state where feeddog is feeding in the right direction. I didnt feel like taking it to the shop because sometimes I cannot reproduce the issue – feeddog runs in the right direction after powering on. Also I couldnt find the time to actually go to the repair shop.
Well, recently I started sewing with knits a lot more, and I have to use one of those fancier stitches that needs the feeddog to go back and forth. well, it is broken to the point of no longer to be able to do that! I would make a stitch and i can see that feed dog would only go in one direction, and my fancy stitch looks… not so fancy. The worst thing is, because its a fancy stitch, I cant use my vintage sewing machines in the meanwhile – they can only do straight stitch or very simple stitches.
What could be wrong? Any tips you could give me that would allow me to fix this myself? Unfortunately this is no longer covered under their warrantee. It almost feels like an electronic issue than mechanical, though i cant imagine the electronics breaking down before the machinary. HELP! I havent gotten my sewing on for the past week and I am experience some withdrawal issue.

Juebejue’s Dad Buys A Vintage Sewing Machine!

Oh my goodness you gals/guys, I have the most awesome dad a seamstress can ask for. One day at 9:30am I got a call from my dad. “Hey, I see this old sewing machine for sale for $20 bucks, it looks pretty good and still works, its a P-F-A-F-F 362, do you want me to buy it for you?” Just a week ago I was cleaning up my sewing room and told myself to get off the habit of collecting old sewing machines, since I rarely touch them after working on them. But this seems like just too good of a deal to pass up!

That night I went to check out the new machine, and wow, I am floored by how silent and smooth it runs. It even come with the original manual and a case! The most awesome part – my dad’s as geeked out as I am about this machine 🙂 He googled about it a bunch, and found out what its really worth (lets just say, a lot more than $20!).



So this machine is not sitting in my collection yet. It doesnt require any fixing (and even if it does, my dad is more capable than me at that sort of stuff), and the Singer I gave/loaned to him does not run nearly as perfect/silent/smell-free as this one. He still needs a machine for utility sewing these days since I broke the very old brother we had (also from flea market, but it was a more present-day machine) when I first started sewing. So he’s going to use this one until… maybe until he runs into another great vintage machine 😀 😀

Sewing Table Mini-Makeover

During the last few days of pregnancy, I tried to get Kaylee out by being more active — cleaning the house, going on walks, etc. One of the things I did was to do a mini sewing table make over. I have one of those art benches with just a slap of fake wood on top, and it is pretty scratched up. I also have a very crappy ironing table, that threatens to topple over every time I used it. So I wrapped up the top part of the table in paddings and then in canvas, then nailed them tight on the back with upholstery nails. Now I have a new sewing table that serves many functions:

  • It is prettier.
  • I can iron large pieces of fabric on there easily
  • I can poke my pins into the table and it wont fall off onto the ground

The only function it failed to serve was to get Kaylee out earlier. Can you imagine a full-term pregnant woman turning a large slab of table over, then went at it with hammers and nails?

Cozy Sweater Dress and Knitting Machine!


Yeap! My new toy is a knitting machine!  I had been looking for one on craigslist for forever, one of those nice brother ones for less than a hundred. But I havent been able to find one in months. So I gave up and used a 50% off coupon and bought the ultimate sweater machine for 100 at the local Michaels. You can get one for 150 on amazon that comes with more stuff, but the reviews are not great, and I didnt want to deal with return shipping in case it didnt work for me. There was quite a learning curve, but since I am stuck on the couch feeding Kaylee a lot, I was able to watch its how to video over a few times, and I think I have mastered the machine!

For anyone out there who is considering this machine, here’s my review and some debugging tips.

This machine is very simple to operate once you’ve learnt the how to. Once it is setup and I’ve gotten the keys to move smoothly(knitting a test piece), I knitting a sweater out of it between feedings and diaper changes in 2 weeks. I think if I had an entire block of time dedicated to working on it, I really could make a simple sweater in two nights!

The machine by default makes stocking stitches, and with a little work you can make ribbings and cables. However, you will not be able to do stitches like garter stitch or moss stitches, at least that would be much slower than hand knitting. To get an idea of how it works, watch their howto videos on youtube, that is the best way to find out!

The machine also doesnt do well with chunky weight yard — it tends to split the yarn. Good thing that chunky weights are faster to knit by hand!

Another downside is that you have to secure the machine to a table using clamps they provided. So if you dont have a sewing space, it could be messy having it on your dining table as you finish your project.

A lot of people on amazon said the machine didnt work or dropped stitches. I can understand why they were frustrated by the machine. When I first got it, some of the keys had this grey foam stuck on it and comes out when it is moved, causing the key to not much forward smoothly. That caused dropped stitches. All I had to do was to knit a large test piece, and pick out the grey stuff as it comes out. I also discovered that I tend to press the top of the machine too hard when pushing it across the keys, which cause it to lower and catch some keys on the edge.

Thats it! I think I am going to keep the machine, even though it has much limitations. I cant bring myself to hand knit anything that is less than chunky, and this can make quite a few things without breaking my bank! Here’s the sweater dress I made. This time I used simply soft, a polyester blend. I really like it, as it is soft and light, and not scratchy like wool.

I had been looking for a loose sweater dress like this for a while, but I havent been able to find a flattering one. I used the pattern that came with my machine, but made the body longer, sleeves shorter, and the neckline wider (so I can pull it down for breastfeeding).

The knitting is very neat, there are occasional rows where its a little too tight, but it was due to my cat pulling on my thread, thus messing with the tension.

I am looking forward to making lots of basic sweaters on here! 🙂

Am I going to finish up the sweater in the last post? Definitely not by hand. I think it can be converted to use the machine for the bodice and sleeve part, but  I am still on the fence for that as well. I might just finish up the cable chest part as a head turban!

Striped Sweater Dress & snap button presser

Its been a while! I havent been sewing much the past few weeks — the husband is back to work and I have less time to tinker in my sewing room. Besides, I got myself another secret machine that I am playing with, anyone want to guess what it is? (Hint, its not a sewing machine.)

The only project I finished sewing was from a few weeks ago. I wanted some sweater dresses for winter — I havent gotten back in shape enough to be comfortable in my old jeans, but I dont have much sweaters that are long enough to be decent with leggings. Also, I need something that can be opened up easily for breast feeding. So I made this dress/cardigan.

It was made using wool sweater knit, so it is very warm. I made it using only the serger, so it didnt take long. There are snap button closures along the front and the belt (I hate the little yarn that retailers use to hold the belt in place). When its buttoned up, I can wear it with leggings as a dress. When unbuttoned, it looks good as a layering cardigan.

Talking about snap buttons, I forgot to mention that my dad got me a cool snap button installing presser from china, along with tons of snap buttons. He meant for me to make pajamas (the ones that can be unbuttons all the way to the feet) for Kaylee, but given that I can get nice clothing for her from good wills for less than 2 bucks, I am hogging those buttons for my own sewing projects for now 😛  I love not having to hammer the snap buttons in the garage!

Another Sewing Machine — Singer 750

There’s a saying in Chinese — if the old doesnt go, the new doesnt come. For me it is the other way around! A few weeks ago I shipped one of my newer machines to a really good friend of mine who is interested in learning how to sew.

Guess what? A few weeks later Karma rewarded me with a vintage sewing machine! My other really good friend’s mother  in law was cleaning out her rooms and had no need for a side table, and it turned out there’s a sewing machine inside! My friend grabbed the machine for me, knowing that I love old sewing machines and I can always let people use them during my sewing parties.

This Singer 750 is in almost perfect condition — there’s very little amount of dust and gunk that I needed to clean off and lubricate. Otherwise, no scratch on the beautiful cabinet, or the machine itself. She even has the original manual and accessories! I dont have a photo of the machine itself since I already took it apart, but it looks like this:

The machine is a little more modern than my usual collection (probably from the early 70s), but I love the curve on this one and had always coveted my less-evil-twin-sister’s vintage sewing machine. They look very very similar from the back!

The sewing machine stitched out a really great, tight straight stitch, despite its bad review. However, the motor makes a funny noise even when I disconnected the motor from the rest of the gears. I took a video of it to post on a yahoo group, and got some really great suggestions, so I am going to try disassembling the motor from the machine itself, take it apart, and see what is making that noise. This is probably the most ambitious fixing Ive ever attempted yet!

Hope I get this one working! If you are wondering why there’s no post of my fancy hand crank sewing machine yet — I am too intimidated to mess with it. I havent threaded a shuttle bobbin ever, and there’s no information online about this particular machine, so I am a little too scared to take out the bobbin in fear that I dont know how to put it back again. Its funny that I have no problem taking apart the screws and metals of a sewing machine, but I get scared about threading of a machine! Don’t worry, I am positive that one day my curiosity would overcome my fear and drive me open it!

For now, I will fix this awesome Singer 750!

Elna Grasshopper Usage Review

So I had my Elna Grasshopper for almost a year now. To say the truth, I havent sewn much with it. When I first got the machine I did a few project with it and then I stopped when the weather got cold. You might think that is weird, but my little Elna might have a motor issue, as it gives out a slight smoky aroma when I sew with it. So I only sew with it when I can have my windows open and the the air circulating.

Besides the smoky motor issue, after sewing continuously with the Elna, it would have a hard time starting its motor. As you know there’s a knee lever instead of a foot petal on that machine. When I pres the knee lever, the motor would rev up, but will not move the needle. Its not too big of a problem as I just need to give the wheel a little push and it would overcome whatever resistance it encountered and start again.

I suspect that the motor is old and would give out soon. When I bought my hand crank machine, I asked the machine repair guy for suggestions on what could be wrong. He said there are two common issues with Elna Grasshopper:
1. Their motor is small and weaker than other vintage machines. It might just be getting old. To get an Elna Grasshopper motor replaced and rewired, it could cost as much as an Elna Grasshopper itself, which is not worth it.
2. The knee lever pushes 4 brass plates inside the grasshopper to control the speed of the motor. The brass plates are soft and malleable. It is common that they could unintentionally short and do not control well. If you cannot seem to get your motor to go from slow to fast smoothly, and it wont sew at slow speed but instead would sew when lever is pushed further, this could be the issue. Commonly you can also wear a spark and smell some smoke from the short.

So that is the unfortunate news about my little cute grasshopper. I think I will still be sewing with it regardless — cant do much about that motor so I’ll just see if it lasts. For all I know it could stay that way and work for years. It is kind of nice to have a machine (my regular one) threaded in white thread and this one threaded in dark thread. It is great at sewing a nice straight stitch, and it goes forward and reverse very easily.
I’ve been sewing without the outer case, so just on the little arm. It is a little harder to control a straight stitch that way, as your hands dont have much to rest on. So I think I will sew with the case folded out to make it a flat surface next time.
So here is a summary from my point of view for those who are considering getting an Elna Grasshopper:
– cute & clean (I’ve almost never seen a dirty Grasshopper! must be the case keeping them clean)
– never misses a stitch
– Great for straight stitch with reverse
– Easy to figure out how to use – threading is pretty much the same as modern machines
– uses a pretty standard, easy to find bobbin
– the small arm is great for sewing those tiny, little armholes.
– knee lever reduce the amount of wires on your desk
– small size and the case it comes with are easy for transportation
– motors and lever control may have issues in the future
– only does straight stitch
– expensive — it usually goes for about 100-200 dollars on ebay
All in all, I am still really happy to own this machine. I just hope the motor doesnt give out soon!

Happy Birthday to MEEEEEE!

I turned a year older recently, so I bought myself a cool sewing machine 😛

Its a hand crank sewing machine made in the early 1900s. It doesnt work very well yet, but I bought it because it has a shuttle bobbin, and I dont currently own a sewing machine with that mechanism.

There seem to be very little information on the web about this machine. It was made in the UK by G. Robert & Company. There’s no information online about that company though. I bought it from a professional sewing machine repair guy near where I live. He showed me how to thread the machine and it is mighty tricky. Hopefully I can figure it out myself!

When the lighting is better, I can take some photos of the cool shuttle bobbin!

Sewing Room Showoff!

Thanks for all your comments on my purple coat! I love it so far and have worn it a few times. I feel a little self-conscious about all the second takes I am getting in that coat! But I feel rich and great in it, except that the wool is a little scratchy, even through the lining! Hopefully it will be better after a few wears. you cant complain about a $6/yard wool that has such a  gorgeous color!

I dont think I have ever shown you my sewing room here! We bought a house back in the 2008, and I was so happy to be able to have a room just for sewing, and not having to annoy my back-then-boyfriend with all the needles on the ground, fabric pieces everywhere, and my old sewing machine causing a series of unstoppable earthquakes on the desk we shared.

So when we first moved in, I called dibs on one of the bedrooms and made it my sewing room, this is how it looked like:

I thought it was awesome, but looking back, it is kind of sad and droopy. Since then we had changed our windows to dual panel, hence lowered it to meet city code (and to allow me the shortie to see outside without tiptoeing). I planted a peach tree outside the window for privacy, as the room looks into our neighbor’s room. I also decided to go all out and painted the room pink. Yes! Pink! I am not a pink girl, but I love a good clique and the result wasnt half bad.

I have also acquired a few piece of furniture from craigslist for pretty cheap/free since then. Now, I think my sewing room is pretty much complete!

Left wall: row of magazine holder to hold all those bulky patterns, books, and burda magazines. zigzag bookshelf I made to hold smaller patterns — it works really well!

center: ikea bookshelf from craigslist to hold all those fabric in my stash!

center right: my sewing table! It can be moved out easily to suit my mood, and the bottom legs fits my two sewing machines perfectly.

note how huge my peach tree has gotten in just 2 years! It flowered pretty pink flowers this year and produced tons of delicious fruits. I think its because I always stare at it and occasionally talk to it.

Left: My most recent acquisition from craigslist, for only 60 dollars, is a cute desk with a cute hutch. It is now my serger and notion station, and probably my favorite piece of furniture in the house! The notions are stored in series of boxes with sewing/fashion theme to it, to be fitting to the room, one of the shelves is perfect for my Wilcobb & Gibb sewing machine.

center: my refinished singer 201, now ready to be used any time

right: self-admiring station and a dressform!

center: I dont think you can be a real seamstress without a cute cat. This one loves to agitate me when I am cutting out fabric by constantly trying to get under them. She may look cute, but she is one feisty kitty and I love her that way.

I now love my sewing room! Do you have a space for just sewing? I would love to see them! Feel free to comment with a link to your blog entry/photos!