Tag Archives: treadle sewing machine

Sewing and sewing

So now that I had a little more time with my new, improved non-school dependant schedule, I thought I’d finally get around to doing something with all those scraps I made from cutting up our school uniforms in July.  (See Transition Year)

I decided on a pattern for the latest patchwork pillow creation, sat down to sew at my treadle sewing machine (See Seamstress) and BING…BONG.  The teeth that move the fabric no longer moved the fabric.  Well, this was something beyond my abilities to repair, so I asked my husband to look at it.  He did, after a few weeks of nagging.  It took him 20 minutes to fix.

So then I sit back down ready to roll, and CRUNCH.  The wheel that turns the band that makes the whole rigmarole go was bent. Frustrated, I piled up my patchwork pieces and started in about getting a new sewing machine base.

My husband knew a guy whose mother had an old machine.  But the mom didn’t want to sell. She had another older base she’d be willing to part with but it was crooked.  One of the legs had been damaged over the years.  And she wanted $500 pesos for it.  

Then I remembered when we went to get a piano in Morelia (See Piano shopping) we had stopped at a roadside flea market and they had the most beautiful Singer sewing machine and base I had ever seen. After having bought our lovely piano earlier that day, I didn’t have any money on me for the sewing machine besides which it was a bit pricey. The guy wanted $2,000 pesos for the set (machine and base). Now that my own sewing machine was kaput, maybe we could see if he’d lower the price any. Consequently, my husband and I spent 3 weeks trying different random days and times to see if the place was open.  No luck.

On the way back from one of these fruitless trips, we drove past another junk shop in Moroleon.  The owner was just setting out a wrought iron sewing machine base.  We immediately stopped and asked the price.  $250 pesos and he’d throw in the curvy part that covered the wheel so that the ladies skirts didn’t get tangled in it.  I whipped out my wallet.

It was quite a trip home with this HEAVY iron between us on the motorcycle, but I was determined and hung on off the back of the motorcycle rack hoping that I wouldn’t fall off at every tope (speed bump). Me, the iron, the motorcycle and my husband arrived home safely.  My husband spent the afternoon fiddling with it.  The bolts were stripped and needed to be replaced. $20 pesos for a bag of bolts.  Then it was rather rusty, so we picked up a can of paint ($50 pesos). It ended up that my husband didn’t put that wheel guard on.  I mean I typically don’t sew with a full skirt on, so no worries about getting tangled.  All in all, I’m delighted with the new improved sewing machine.  It runs as smooth as a baby’s bottom (whatever that’s supposed to mean).

So then the question was what to do with the old base.  As the wheel was bent, it really wasn’t going to be good to anyone as a serviceable item.  Well, waste not, want not.  My son varnished a piece of scrap wood and my husband mounted it to the base and voila, a new, vintage table.  Everybody around here has at least one of these sewing machine base tables. And now I do too.

So now that the pillows are piling up, it’s time to head to the tianguis (flea market) and see if we can convert those old uniforms into a few pesos.  My next project will be curtains for the upstairs windows.  Stay tuned for details on that remodeling project.




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Filed under Homesteading

Failing at your own business–Seamstress

sew she did

So with my new acquisition of a singer treadle sewing machine (See Dirty and Ragged?), I was all impatient to get started. Unfortunately, my schedule didn’t allow me a chance to get right on it and my machine languished a week without me touching it. Finally, vacation started and I jumped right in with both feet. I was going to make millions with my new machine. Well, I wasn’t really aiming for millions, just enough to pay for the thing, it was rather a luxury item after all.


Loading the bobbin!

So I sat down and determined to figure out how to use it. I spent 40 minutes trying to thread the needle. Then another 2 hours trying to figure out how to load the bobbin. I had to give it a rest after that. When my husband came home from work, I begged him to look at the machine since I was near tears. What could I be doing wrong? He said that his grandmother Sofia always put the foot down before fishing for the bobbin string. He did that and VOILA! It was ready to sew. DUH!

Well, I had enough for that day, but I was up and at’em early the next morning. I found that morning was not the time to sew. I had strategically placed my machine in the back room, giving me plenty of light and room to work. However, it’s an east facing room and entirely too bright for morning sewing. Sigh. Oh well, I had to wait until the afternoon and did the less exciting chores in the morning.

Finally, after lunch, I cleared my schedule to begin. My goal was to make a few pillows out of scraps I had been collecting from our old clothes. Pillows seemed an easy project, I’ve had some experience with making and selling those at Ye Olde Crappe Shoppe.


My make-shift bandages

So I pinked and pinked and pinked until I had blisters on my fingers. After a few hours work, though, I had a nice pile of usable rectangles. I realized I may have gone a little overboard when my husband starting hiding his pants from me afraid I’d cut them to bits. Time for the next step.


Piles and piles of pinked fabric

I picked a flower patterned group and a contrasting solid beige color for my first pillow and sat down at my machine, raring to go.

It was like I’d never sewn before. I bent the needle, didn’t pin appropriately and had the fabric move, had to rethread 40 million times, sewed the wrong sides together, had the thread bunch up, had to rip out the seams and start again, and tore the fabric piece. Maybe it was time to rethink my plan for world domination through sewing.

I did finally get the hang of it and produced a pillow. That was enough for that day!

Over the 2 week vacation period, I spent nearly every afternoon in the back room, cutting and pinning and stitching. My son said that he’d heard me cackling with glee on several occasions. My husband started complaining about the big mess I was making (that’s what he calls all my projects). It was amazing!  I could go as long as the light or my legs held out. By the end of the week, I had oodles of completed pillow cases ready to be stuffed.


Some of my scrap pillows!

Only, I didn’t have any stuffing. As the whole point was to earn money without spending any more, the pillow cases were lovingly folded in my great Aunt Tootie’s hope chest (the one she bought when she married the tugboat captain from Virginia that I brought all the way to Mexico with me). And I moved on to other projects.

I hemmed my work pants and jeans. This is an essential part of my wardrobe because, although most Mexican women are 2-3 inches shorter than me, all Mexican made women’s pants are 5-6 inches too long for me. So I hem. That saved me about $500 pesos. Then I made a bed skirt, curtains and blanket for my son’s room remodel. That saved me some money too. I went further and made new covers for our pillows and restuffed them, adding a pinch of lavender for freshness. It was like having new pillows and saved me $100 pesos per pillow.

Well, I suppose that saving money and making money are essentially the same thing. All in all, my treadle sewing machine was a good investment after all.




Filed under Employment, Homesteading

Dirty and ragged?

The other day I was reading a prepper adventure story–you know the kind, where a handful of people survive X disaster. In this particular story, it was an EMP attack, which means no electricity. In the story, it had been just 2 months since the power went out and the survivors were described as dirty and ragged.

Dirty and ragged? I’ve lived without electricity in my home for 10 years now and I hardly consider myself dirty and ragged. What could have happened to these people? Well, water might be in short supply. We’ve had that dilemma ourselves which has meant a gap of several days between showers. (See Ni modo) but we still wash our face and hands and any other grubby parts, even if we have to draw up a bucket of water from the ajibe (dry well). (See Water Woes) So what about that ragged part? If there happened to be no electricity, it stands to reason that the sewing machines wouldn’t work. But really, ragged? After just 2 months? Nobody knows how to use a needle and thread anymore?

Right then and there I decided that wouldn’t happen to us in the event of X disaster. Thus began my quest for a treadle sewing machine. Believe it or not, they aren’t so hard to find here. Everybody and their mother had one, or so it seems.

First, I asked my co-workers. The secretary’s grandmother had one. However, she wasn’t able to get ahold of grandma because her phone had been disconnected. I don’t know about you, but finding out my grandma’s phone was disconnected would inspire a visit at the very least to make sure she wasn’t kitty food for her houseful of now feral cats. But I guess every family is different.

So then the lunch lady said that she had 2. Yep, two. One had been her mother’s and she would not sell it for sentimental reasons. The second was in need of repair but she didn’t know exactly what it needed. Nothing came of that lead either.

At the Sunday tianguis (flea market) in Moroleon, I came across the machine part that the seller assured me was in working order. However, without a base, it wouldn’t be much good to me. I suppose I could have bought the base separately, but then I would have to see if it worked with that machine and get bands and well, it seemed too complicated. It was only $250 pesos though.

Then there was the trip to Patzcuaro to the Singer store where the lady refused to sell me the display model saying it was a piece of crap made in China, not Mexican-made. So much for that. (See Playing Tourist–Patzcuaro)

The other week, driving to the gas station, I spied one at a bazaar (an open-air junk shop). We turned around and asked. The one displayed didn’t work. The guy said that he had another one but his brother had it. He’d be able to have it there by 1:30. So we went back at 1:30. Well, the brother had taken it to a tianguis (flea market) to try and sell. He’d be back by 6:00. Meanwhile, the guy had another model in his house. My husband had a look at it. He said the machine looked fine, but the base needed some work. My husband went back at 6:00 and the brother still hadn’t appeared. The guy was willing to sell the crappy base, but not the machine to the one he had in the house. That wouldn’t work. How much you want to bet that the tianguis guy from the other week had the machine that matched the working base? Either way, it didn’t work out for me.

Coppel had a display model treadle machine, but I wasn’t impressed. Since I was disappointed with the quality of my bike recently purchased at Coppel (there seemed to be missing screws and the frame feels like it will burst apart at every pedal) I wasn’t going to shell out over $2,000 pesos for something I might not be happy with.

What I really wanted was one of the antique sewing machines–built to last and still running. I checked out eBay and found a few–even a Janome 131 Hand Crank Sewing Machine hand crank one. I was all excited about it until I saw that it would be shipped from Latvia. How much would shipping be from there? I didn’t even want to know. Besides, I had a bad experience or two with eBay and wasn’t in a hurry to give it another go. (See Shipping Fiasco)

Barring the antique sewing machine, a functioning new machine would work. So I went to Amazon. Regular old Amazon had nothing, but Amazon Mexico had 2 Singer Negrita 15CD Máquina de Coser con Mueble de Triplay de 5 cajones models seemingly identical but about $200 pesos different in price. As I couldn’t find anything different but the color of the base, I ordered the less expensive one.

Now that I have a viable shipping address (See Trade Route Established) I set about ordering it and waited anxiously for its arrival. Although there was a hiccup with my supplier (my friend) and her bank saying she had a fraudulent purchase for using a Mexican site, it arrived right on time. The school secretary accepted delivery for me.

sewing machine

It wasn’t sent via DHL, but Estafeta which makes sense as the sewing machine came from the Amazon warehouse in Mexico–and as there is an office not so very far from the school, it seems that they too had no problems in delivery.

We stashed it in the back of Myrtle and took it home.  That’s one less thing I need to worry about when TSHTF!





Filed under Electricity issues, Mail Service and Shipping in Mexico