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Dec 2, 2010

Decluttering downsides



I know this is getting a little wearisome for some of you, but rest assured, the decluttering is winding down.

Yesterday I bid good-bye to my Brother LS2125, now owned by former Floridian Melissa.  So touched was I by her excitement, I threw in a vintage McCall's hardcover sewing book for free.  Melissa seemed delighted.

I had mixed feelings about posting my vintage Necchi 555 on Craigslist.  This is a very special machine albeit one I do not use anymore.



Then a woman named Nicola expressed interest via a late-night email.  It sounded promising; she'd be driving in from Brooklyn at 10 am.  This morning, however, she told me that her husband hinted he'll be buying her a machine for Christmas (not mine, alas).   Oh well.

Friends, there's a downside to downsizing: with nearly a dozen things for sale on Craigslist, from Luxo lamps to Mickey Mouse phones, I check my email compulsively all day, hoping for a bite.  I was surprised at how quickly I was able to sell four sewing machines.  A lot of people are interested in sewing, both men and women, at least here in New York City.

Oh, before I forget: early yesterday a woman named Miriam braved the pouring rain to pick up three bags of my used fabric scraps, ostensibly to send them to the Philippines, where they will be upcycled (her term), whatever that means; I didn't probe.  My sense of upcycling comes from Etsy, where someone finds a used Samsonite suitcase at a thrift store for $2, stencils doves on it, and sells it for $50.


Upcycling: planet-saver or wearisome fad?

I have another question for you.  I know that where many of you live, used sewing machines often come in tables, but here that's not as common (though at the beginning of my sewing journey I scored a dusty Singer Stylist in an old veneer table right in the trash area of my apartment building and got rid of it after a day, thinking I had no need for two sewing machines -- can you imagine?!).  Anyway, I'd like to put my Singer 15-91 in a table -- I'm tired of not being able to put it out of sight and I actually close my treadle table a lot when I 'm not using it, just to keep it dust-free.

Someone on eBay is selling a suitable table; the legs unscrew and the whole thing ships relatively inexpensively; it would be less than $60 in total.  I'm just wondering if it's worth investing that in a table now, when for $60 I could probably buy a machine and a table, though not today, and not one that would be shipped to me.  Frankly, aside from a classic treadle table, I've never seen a sewing table or cabinet I thought was attractive.  Most look like something from a suburban ranch house circa 1963: fussy Queen Anne or watered down Danish Modern. 


What do you think?  Should I hold out or buy it?  I have the money now that I've sold so many machines, but I certainly don't have to spend it.  I realized of late that I hate those big plastic sewing machine cases: they're ugly as all get out -- always beige and often filthy --  and they take up as much space empty as they do with a sewing machine in them.   They're sturdy, I'll grant you that.



Meanwhile, I have started thinking about imminent sewing projects.  As I mentioned, my toggle coat pattern has arrived from Barcelona.



I may swing by some fabric stores today to see what I can find.  I'm thinking something like this, but good wool plaids are not easy to find in my ahem price range.  Ideas?



Anyway, that's it.  I am hoping for more Taras, Melissas, Marcias, and Pablos to come take my stuff away.  But if not, life goes on, right?

And WHAT is up with my Elna Grasshopper?  Not even a nibble.

I hope my decluttering story has been a cautionary tale for you all.  If you don't need it, don't bring it into your life.  No more collecting.  It takes so much more energy to get rid of something than it does to press "Buy it now!"

Have a great day everybody -- and what about the sewing table?  Do you upcycle?

36 comments:

  1. I believe I mentioned before that I would happily take your Elna Grasshopper! Over here!

    You can't swing a cat without hitting a sewing machine in a table on this part of the planet. I now have 5 tables and quickly running out of room. Rarely can I find a sewing machine in a case!

    Good luck with your sales, I'm looking forward to the progress of your toggle coat!

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  2. I TOLD you I want your Grasshopper!!

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  3. I won't ship it, that's the thing. Call me crazy.

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  4. I really like that sewing table. I'm looking for one because I really want to be able to put the machine away and compress things, so I'm actively looking for the smaller table, that usually has high legs and fold out leaves. But I have a back up plan as well. A month ago I passed up exactly what I wanted at an estate sale for $10, because I was also still looking for a machine. Now my Singer "guy" (who refurbished my Rocketeer, and will fix it for life) is looking for one for me.

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  5. LAP, the table I'm thinking of buying is more like the one you describe: small, high legs, fold out top. The pic I posted just represents the ersatz Danish Modern style one sees so often.

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  6. I'm so glad you offloaded your sewing machines! Good for you!

    Re: upcycling. I really like the idea, but it's rare to see something on etsy that I couldn't do myself. Currently, I'm upcycling cashmere and wool sweaters in to new and much less stuffy sweaters. I also buy crap jewelry at garage sales and make them into new jewelry. It's really fun and I like the new configurations, but I'd never sell them.

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  7. I have always had a cabinet with my most used machine so when I see someone sewing without it I can't help but feel sorry for the sewer. The draping of the fabric over the small bed must shift the fabric somewhat (considering the fact that the outside fabric is cut slightly larger than the lining to allow for the difference in area covered and turn of cloth,). I don't know that for sure but it stands to reason.
    So, I love having a large flat bed to work on. Can't imagine not having it when working on projects that have a lot of volume - drapes, formal wear, coats, etc. I have machines that I don't have in a cabinet but I feel awkward sewing on them. Mostly only use them when I go somewhere else to sew.
    My old Elna SU has a table made specifically for it. The bed flips up so that I can use the free arm. Just really love it. It is not pretty, though. It is built more like a card table, and able to fold up and put away......like that's going to happen!
    The cabinets do take up a bit of space but if it is a machine that you use more than others, then I think they are worth working around. If I were you I would get the cabinet since you use that machine a lot but maybe that is more because I have become so used to them.
    You can also order bed extensions for various machines but they are not as large as a cabinet. I have been thinking of asking my SIL to cut me some portable enlarged beds for the various machines I have. If I had all my machines in a cabinet....it wouldn't be pretty!!

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  8. Doreen, I think you've convinced me...

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  9. I have several machines in cabinets and I do like the convenience of being able to put them away. I'm a little put out by the price that you mentioned though, BUT if you love it, really love it, then I would say bite the bullet and get it. Otherwise wait and you will probably find one as a thrift store.

    Did you measure to make sure it will fit your machine?

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  10. She refers to my model in her posting. I could ask her if she could do better price-wise. It's a Buy it Now.

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  11. I picked up one of those old singer card tables with the removable cut out. So much nicer than wrestling with fabric dropping over the edge of a standard sewing cabinet. I fold it up and keep it behind the door when not using. I have seen a singer cabinet with a very wide folding top. I think they call it a quilting table-all splayed legs and blonde Formica. Way too expensive on eBay so I keep looking.

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  12. It does seem like you need a nice coat-reward after all that decluttering..

    I have a proper sewing-machine table. My mother got it for me, when one of her neighbor friends moved into a nursing home. My mother is dead, so you can imagine I still have the thing, even lugged it across the Atlantic. It's really as good as they get: real wood, a nice bench that pulls out, with a large drawer underneath, it's sturdy and even pretty (in a Danish-modern way, but I like that). The only thing is that in order for it to really work, I'd need to have one of those machines that have screw holes on the back, so that it could be attached as it swings down into the desktop. Well, ha! It's probably been 30 years since they've made a machine with the requisite holes. So I have a well-fitted little plank to fill the desktop hole, and the machine stays on top. In other words, the desk gets closed every few years, when I move.. So much for space-saving and esthetics.

    Youw own mileage may vary, as you probably still have half a dozen machines with the required screw holes, but just be aware..

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  13. spend the money you were going to spend on the table to buy good fabric for the toggle coat!

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  14. Hey Peter. I'm coming out of lurkdom to comment on the table. I have a Singer 15-91 in a cabinet. I love being able to fold it down and I love having the flat sewing surface. My only complaint is that the space for my legs is not as wide as I would like. Now, I'll readily admit that I'm not exactly svelte, but I do wonder what sort of clamped together-toothpick legged creature this thing was designed for. At any rate, make sure you'll be comfortable using it. Good luck!

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  15. I completely agree with Doreen --in fact I have an Elna SU and the table she was referring to myself. I hate sewing with a machine that isn't flush in a table. That's just me though. Plus, I find that putting a machine up on a table isn't very ergonomic for me --I get a shoulder/neck strain. If I have to sew with a machine on a table I use the Elna one because it's actually lower with the free arm section down which puts the machine bed at the right height.

    My own large sewing table came from the dump. My dad cut and routed the hole for the machine to sit in. Of course, I can't lower the machine. I just throw a homemade dust cover over it.

    If you love the design of the table and it achieves what you want with your machine, buy it! If not, wait --don't settle or you'll be listing it on Craigslist next.

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  16. Oh, and I also agree with Renee --I used to bruise my left knee repeatedly on that small sewing machine cabinet. It was too narrow (which is why I switched it out).

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  17. I have one industrial machine in a table-like housing and it weighs a ton! I haven't used it in years just because it's a beast to move. Hubbie built a counter for me that serves as my sewing surface and it's perfect.

    As for the coat, what a great pattern. Yep, I feel ya about getting just the right plaid.

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  18. Hey, Peter. I've been following for a while but am a first time commenter. I have three tables and about as many machines as you before you started to declutter. I have a treadle cabinet and two other machines in standard cabinets and my quilting machine is in a custom made cabinet. I like the convenience of a cabinet, but I also like to put a machine away in it's box and forget about it for a while. I commend your decluttering. Unfortunately, I'm still collecting, but realize I need to pick some favorites and stop buying. But, who can pass up a good deal? Lane

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  19. Guess I'm the odd one out here. My machines go on a 6' long table which I love because I make a fair number of large things like drapes and slipcovers. When I had a machine in a table, I used to have a chair next to the extension to hold the fabric up off the floor. However, if I ever find the right treadle in a nice cabinet, it's mine. And, agree - hold out for the table you want or you'll be listing it in a week.
    Heather

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  20. go for it!! those cases are only for taking the machines to the repair shop or moving from one house to another. I think you would be a happier sewist with one or two good machines in tables(or cabinets) than spread out all over the kitchen table. And the cabinets when closed can be great when having a party.

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  21. so much activity! my head is spinning, so many things leaving you so quickly:P

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  22. I have used both new and old blankets for coat fabric.

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  23. I love my cabinet; I also fold the machine down and use the top as a hand-sewing surface, very handy. The best is having a place to put things that isn't right under my fabric.

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  24. I have a cabinet I don't really want (I took the machine out) and would give to you (I could bring it to you next time I drive into NYC) but it held a Kenmore and I don't think a Singer will fit into it. :( Too bad because I think the style is similar to the one you pictured *and* it comes with a cool chair. If you find out that a Singer will fit in there it's yours!

    I see machines I want all the time but they always have cabinets, and even though I live in a house I just don't have the space for more cabinets. One is sitting out on my porch and needs to be brought in before it gets ruined by the elements.

    On a side note, I'm a CL troller and have spotted all your listings... I thought about asking you for that White (I've been wanting one of those) but I saw the listing in the morning and then was in a meeting all day, so by the time I got back to a computer to email you about it, it was gone! The Grasshopper does look nice too...

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  25. I'm so envious of you, out shopping for fabric. I would try Peron's on W 40th. You may find something in the half off annex. Even if you don't find what you're looking for, you may find something else you just can't leave behind. I've also had good luck at A&K Fabrics. The wool coating is on the back wall. Have fun prowling the garment district!

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  26. I'd happily give your Elna Grasshopper a home, but even if you were prepared to ship, I fear charges to the UK would be somewhat prohibitive...

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  27. For you toggle coat how about using fleece? Maybe it is not 'heavy' enough for the New York winters?

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  28. I have one you can have, Peter. It's even a Singer sewing cabinet... from about the 50s from the style of hardware on it. The catch is that it's heavy and won't ship well, so you would have to pick it up and I live around Atlanta, GA. I bought it for the machine inside it, which turned out not to work. I tossed it and kept the cabinet because if nothing else, it's solid furniture. And unfortunately, neither one of my Pfaffs fit in it. Currently, it's storing a few notions and has my two pattern boxes on top of it.

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  29. Laura, I don't think it's going to work! ;)

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  30. I wish you luck finding a suitable wool plaid. The supply of good wool plaid seems to have dried up here in Sunny Florida! I imagine that you'll probably have a much better selection than what they offer at Joanns and Hancocks! Happy Hunting!

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  31. Hi Peter!

    Talking about sewing machine cabinets, I know that any full size singer sewing machine, like your 15-91, will fit to any full-size singer sewing machine cabinet. There are some singer cabinets for a 3/4 size Singer machines (like the model 99, 185, etc), but they are rare. So, if the owner of the auction does not know if it is a Singer full-size machine cabinet, or if the cabinet is unknown, better to mesure the screw distance in the back of your 15-91 and ask for the distance mesurements (or the mesurement between the hinges) on the cabinet you want to buy.

    Viel Glück!

    Andrea
    in Germany

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  32. Thank you for all those great tips, offers, and ideas. Duane, I'm going to check out AK Fabrics ASAP!

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  33. Well here is my problem with sewing tables; (1) they are often not well made pieces of furniture and the joints loosen up pretty fast from the vibration of the machine (2) a serious sewer tends to leave them open anyway and if you close them do you really want to be moving stuff off of it every time you want to sew (3) the leaf to the left of the machines is usually just supported by a wire cable that will inevitably loosen up as well and then the leaf won't lie flat and that will drive you crazy (trust me on that) and (4) there is no storage in those things other than a tiny draw for bobbins. I'd rather have a machine lift built custom into the cabinet of my choice: http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=2

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  34. Peter, I'm sorry if my Grasshopper post sounded snarky! I thought I was being SO funny. I know you won't ship (especially to Idaho!).

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  35. look at it this way, you have saved machines from the trash, thrift store etc and sent them on to good homes. great karma.

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