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Mar 23, 2011

Sewing and the Impulse Purchase



Kind readers, I won't lie: I've indulged in a few impulsive pick-ups in my day -- shopping, I mean.

I am not a spendthrift, however -- just the opposite -- and other than my local Rite Aid (when I need nail polish) I avoid stores.

You're probably wondering, well, how about those saddle shoes you were obsessing over the other day?  Friends, they came, I saw, and I conquered my desire for saddle shoes; plus the toe box was too narrow.  Back to Zappos they go!



Walking the dogs yesterday, I chanced upon these Opening Ceremony brand men's gray suede shoes in great condition in the trash.  The price, as they say, was right, and the fit, perfect.  Saddle shoes can wait for the sales.



At the flea market -- completely cash-based, obviously -- I'm always clear-headed and cautious. A typical purchase is $2 kid gloves or vintage fabric, or a few $1 patterns, many of which become giveaways (I'm always thinking of your needs, readers).





 

With most other things like clothes, I'm happy to shop the Salvation Army or make it myself (with the exception of socks).

Parenthetically, one of the best things about Amazon is that you can create a "wish list."  Nearly everything I've ever put on my wish list I've revisited later and decided against purchasing.  Try it -- it's a great tool.

No, when it comes to shopping, I have only two weaknesses: Etsy, and eBay.

Actually, since the only things I've ever bought on Etsy are patterns, it hasn't been that big a problem. Do I sew every pattern I purchase?  Of course not.  But I have sewn roughly half, with about half of the rest on my to-do list.  A few, admittedly, are filed under "What Was I Thinking?"



But we're talking $5 here, $5 there (and often less), nothing big. Some people buy Soy Lattes at Starbucks, I buy patterns. And I always shop around (many patterns are listed by multiple sellers at wildly varying prices).

Here's my latest, which can be had for $4, $6, or $12 -- take your pick.



Ebay is my true weakness.  To be clear: I will not purchase things I don't have the money for upfront.  I would never go into debt for, say, a doll...or five or six.



Or their wardrobe.



Or stinky luggage.  (Note to self: remove months-old cat litter, execute Plan B.)



Or vintage wool bathing suits.  (A passing phase.)





So you can probably guess where this is leading.  On Friday I made an impulse purchase of the worst -- or best -- kind, depending on how you look at it.



The way I see it is this:  I haven't bought one sewing machine yet all year and here it is nearly April, my birthday month.  I've had an intense last few weeks, and it's healthy to indulge now and then, right?  If I hate it, I can clean it up a bit and sell it.

I've been looking at these on eBay, Craigslist, and at the flea market for a long time and while the one I chose wasn't the bargain of the century, it wasn't high for Featherweights (due, in part to the machine needing a new belt and coming in a somewhat beat up case).

I should receive it any day now and friends, I can't wait.  Shouldn't a man who writes about vintage sewing machines have working knowledge of a Featherweight?  Of course he should (I think).

In closing, dear readers, confession time:

Have you ever made a sewing-related impulse purchase?  Do you tend to be more impulsive with sewing purchases or are you the same way with everything you buy?

Fabric, sewing machines, notions, other -- we don't judge at MPB. 

Confess and absolve yourselves!

66 comments:

  1. Hi Peter, of course you deserve a new machine! I can never go past free fabrics, of any type or dimension, but then again, who can? We have no thrift shops here, sadly.

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  2. No thrift stores in Tuscany? What do people do with their old underwear? ;)

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  3. Peter, I am so glad I found your blog. I am moving into a very large space soon and have vowed to become good at sewing. I am basically moving into fight club (systema) and I will set up a test kitchen for our new food blog and keep an area for crafting and Etsy store management. Right now I can make home accessories and fix clothing (or make accessories for my computer or iPad) but I cannot sew clothing. My daughter and I are not easy to fit in the regular size (for instance, my 10 year old is 5ft6in and wears size 8 shoes) so everything in the store is too 'old' for her. I have a contemporary sewing machine but I also have my grandmother's sewing machine. She made my father's layette on that machine in early 1940s. I am attached to this souvenir from her (I have known that it would be mine since I was a small child) but I do not know how to use it correctly (and it smells like old oiled cloth wires...) But I love reading blogs of peeps who have an appreciation for vintage goodness :) (found via Burda Style newsletter)

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  4. Isn't it fabulous having these kind of stuff!

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  5. I'm not terribly impulsive, but I think I'm more impulsive about sewing stuff than I am about most other purchases.

    I have to stay out of thrift stores unless I'm prepared to stock up on patterns, notions (mostly rayon seam binding and buttons), and the occasional sewing machine.

    Patterns are the biggest temptation-- I love to buy and trade them, even if I know I'll never make up most of them. I just love to look at the pictures, and to see what the pieces look like. Luckily, most of my patterns are secondhand, so I don't spend a huge amount of money on my pattern habit. :)

    Betty

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  6. I think you really deserve a new sewing machine man!

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  7. I impulse-buy fabric online quite a bit, especially remnants or when ones I love are on sale. I went through a phase of buying old barkcloth curtains on eBay because I adore the fabric. But I need to keep that in check for a while and do some stash-busting. No point in hoarding the fabric if I don't use it! I also impulse-bought an old Husqvarna ZigZag for $30, in a very cute green suitcase-like carry case, with manual, accessories etc. Justified it by saying I didn't yet have a free-arm. It was working but ceased when I pulled it to bits for a good clean... has since cost me um, a fair bit more to get it back up to speed, and it's not even my favourite machine. Boo.

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  8. I see a Featherweight! I inherited mine from my Grandmother (It had NEVER been used!) and it is my favorite to piece on. Perfect stitch, perfect rhythm, quiet, what could be better?! Enjoy your new baby and don't worry about the Etsy/Ebay problem. It's not a problem if you can admit it...right?

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  9. Your sewing (and purchasing) exploits have been allowing me to live vicariously through you this past winter. Carry on.

    I hear you on the dangers of Etsy and Ebay, though - it's hard knowing that I won't have any time to sew (and quite the backlog...Sunni's giveaway dress, urgh...) and resisiting the temptationg to buy another foofy-skirted, 50s dress.

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  10. Yes, I am completely impulsive about buying fabric online, as well. I mean, my gosh, I am living in a fabric/notions wasteland, where fleece is king. How can I not buy silk when it is on sale for $2.95 a yard?????? I also am pretty addicted to buying trims on ebay......

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  11. Puleeze, I have 36 yards of poly lace trim that may never see a crinoline.

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  12. I've got a particular weakness for seeing something fab another blogger has made, then not resting (or indeed breathing) until I've tracked down and bought the same pattern. That's my secret vice.
    Ooh I see you have an April birthday, me too. What date? x

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  13. I am easily tempted by cotton knit prints online. Because I can never find them at my local chain store, and I can always use another long or short-sleeved T-shirt, right?

    My more dangerous weakness is lovely silks from Thai Silks in Los Altos, CA. I have several simply gorgeous purchases that have been sitting unsewn for years, waiting for me to get brave enough to use them. It is just hard to resist the opportunity to pick something out in person that I would be unwilling to commit to based solely upon a bitmap and a written description. So I indulge, knowing that I am not on that coast very often. At that moment, I never seem to consider that I am much more of a jeans-and-T-shirt sort of sewer than a silk sewer.

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  14. Sure, I impulse buy sometimes. I like patterns...and sewing machines (although I think I have that one under control). When I bought my Featherweight I figured if I didn't want to keep it I could sell it for double the amount I paid. I haven't written about it much lately but it's a fun little machine. It feels like sewing on a toy after using my other machines.

    I wondered if you ever got the smell out of that luggage. I had hopes for you since I have some smelly cases myself.

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  15. Sewing purchases make up 99% of my impulse purchases. The other 1% is stuff for my kids. ;-)

    Patterns are my weakness and I've been known to go to the local Fabric Mega Mart when they're having their $1/pattern sale and stock up on vintage repro patterns. That vintage reissue Butterick? $1. :-D

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  16. I don't know how you could possibly think an old Batman costume pattern could possibly be a bad buy! I would get it just for the masks! This is the thing dreams are made of sir. - Sarah

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  17. I also use the trick of the amazon wish list. It is amazing to see how quickly those urges to posses stuff disappear within a few days. But, buying fabric is my sin (I confess).

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  18. Three Hail Marys and let's call it a day.

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  19. I see your next venture as learning to knit, so you can make your own socks.

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  20. I bought my Featherweight off Craigslist and it was a complete impulse buy. The price was right. It was fixable with a little oil and minimal cleaning. Great little machine with a great stitch. My sewing buys are probably 75% planned and 25% impulse, but all those fabric sale emails don't help.

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  21. Buying too much at thrift stores etc doesn't count if you donate back to them everything possible. Around here we are mourning our thrift stores. We used to have several good ones, but now we are down to a couple and they have changed what they offer. Patterns, yarn and fabric are practically unheard of these days.

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  22. patterns at the thrift store. fabric at a couple of places because the prices are just amazing for the quality: gaffney's in phila, vogue here. and silk dresses at the thrift store too.

    i want a serger now, though, peter, need to seek your council on how to proceed with an online purchase.

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  23. Mine is a Brother 1034D bought refurbished from Allbrands.com for less than $200. Easy to thread and utterly reliable. I've had it and used it frequently for one year now. Check the reviews for it on Pattern Review: they are stellar.

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  24. Hello! I'm Michelle, I'm new to your blog. Thought I'd introduce myself before I start blabbing away on your space. At any rate, your compulsive internet purchases are hilarious!

    I have been buying mixed lots of vintage patterns on ebay for a few years now, but I only started sewing recently. (It's... a work in progress). I can't help myself. It started as Spinnerin collecting, and and spun out of control. My imagination tends to run wild sometimes. I have grand plans for everything I buy, it just takes me a little while to catch up with myself. Perhaps folks like us need a support group. Though, I doubt it'd do any good.

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  25. Although I can't say I've ever made a sewing-related impulse purchase, my other style-related impulse purchases are many and frequent.

    Also I can't believe you found those shoes in the trash. You lucky duck!

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  26. This reminds me I have to go fetch my vintage machine from my mothers house. I will be calling you for advice! please?
    Virginia too lazy to log in to google.

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  27. My Singer 99k is an impulse purchase. My mother had one, and I saw one on craigslist and bought it ($50) and spent another $90 having it refurbished and rewired.

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  28. I went to the San Francisco Vintage Expo with my daughters last weekend and tried not to go nuts with with one lady that sold vintage buttons, ribbons, patterns etc. Luckily I had my oldest daughter who knew her vintage, and what not to buy. BUT I think I did end up going a bit over the top with a couple of vintage patterns that perhaps were over priced. Oh well, they were too cute to leave behind.

    The retro"52" Butterick pattern you have pictured I made for my daughter's prom. If you ever want to see it done up go check it out on my blog. It turned out great, and I didn't even have to do any altering on it for her.
    Have fun with your newest machine :)

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  29. Darling, ALL my splurges are sewing and fashion related. My roof needs to be fixed to look pretty after a leak messed up a portion. It no longer leaks, but do you think my serger money I saved is going for wood and paint? HA! I have bathing suits and dresses to make. As long as I look fabulous I have a hard time caring about other things...

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  30. Oh! And did you put cat litter in the suitcase to absorb moisture and funky smell? Genius! I turn to baking soda a lot, but that is a great idea.

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  31. Fabric yardage, like barrels of wine and scotch, needs to be properly aged before using.

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  32. I have a pattern addiction. If it's 5 for $5.00, I am sooooo there! Especially anything costume related. Heck, I even spend far too much of historically correct patterns!
    I have two featherweights...I got one for each kid because they are practically indestructible and I didn't want them messing with my Pfaff. I seem to have a growing machine addiction as well. I have two singer 221, pfaff 7550, janome aqs and a serger. I know I want the treadle my sister just uses as a night stand....seriously...a night stand!!

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  33. I am not impulsive at all... that explains why I just have five sewing machines and just one medium size luggage to keep my fabric stasch! The Featherweight is a dear little thing, you will love it!

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  34. I am not a shopper, and actually do not like shopping. I do not even have a fabric stash.
    I buy fabric for whatever item I am making at this moment.

    I am addicted to vintage photos on Ebay, and the ultimate box collection came up. Unfortunately, I am new to Ebay, and did not know that if it says there is 1 bidder, and you know that it is you, doesn't really mean anything. I lost a whole box of a families life history, and a great opportunity for my geneology passion to a last minute bid that I could not compete with.

    I checked out the sewing machines, and can't believe how many people are bidding on Bernina, Pfaff and Elna. They are totally expensive for a machine from the 80's.

    I love your tips, and prized items you got. You really do get some good deals.

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  35. Congratulations on your Feather! (& it's about darn time, says I)

    Careful though....the little darlings do have a tendency to multiply right under your nose...

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  36. Yes, of course I impulse buy ! What good is an obsession if it doesn't involve impulsive purchases of extremely heavy cast metal machines or yards and yards of odd fabrics at fabulous prices? I agree, putting things on my wish list is a really good way to delay the impulse and make better purchases.

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  37. Oh goodness, fabric is my weakness. I would have snapped up that fabric if I'd found it (never seen fabric at a flea market here, sad).

    And I have recently acknowledged to myself that I am a pattern collector. Yes, I sew many patterns. But I could never even pretend to have time in my life to sew all the patterns I have. But I'm ok with being a pattern collector. For now.

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  38. Because of eBay I have 5 vintage department store catalogs coming.
    Just process that for a minute.... :)

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  39. I too have a weakness for patterns on Etsy, and sewing books (pre-owned, new or properly vintage) on both the UK and US Amazon sites - see my LibraryThing.com page for evidence http://www.librarything.com/profile/Seemane LOL!(44 books and still growing opps!). I haven't even read them all (my bad!), but I find it very comforting to know they are there for when I need to read them for a technique or how-to, because whilst I enjoy the web for finding info. sometimes just having the book open next to you whilst you work is more satisfying :)

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  40. Sewing-related impulse purchases are mostly done when I don't have time to sew. I just bought 3 patterns today. And this was *after* I had already read your post this morning. Ahem.

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  41. Let's try this again for the third time. Fabric is my most frequent impulse purchase, as my black-hole-sewing-closet can attest to. Secondary is patterns, though I've been getting better about it. I'm likely to dither for at least a week or so before buying more patterns. This is my latest impulse purchase, and it's destined to become this complete with a matching turquoise pinafore/sundress. 2 for 1 is always a good thing. I'm waiting on the woven ribbon to arrive for the finishing touch before I start!

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  42. You mean you don't like the batman pattern?

    I blame K-Line for my recent impulsive investment in 3 sewing machines. She's a bad influence on me, I know. But I'm totally having fun making stuff!

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  43. Susan, Kristin is a terrible influence, particularly on her fellow Canadians. ;)

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  44. I hope you fall in love with that mighty machine! As a matter of fact, my Featherweight was an impulse purchase, and I rarely buy items without weighing the pros and cons before committing.

    I'd toyed with the idea of owning a Featherweight, but one of my "sewing mentors" considered them to be substandard, so I remained on the fence.

    I purchased my Featherweight from eBay. One particular seller, crislon, often offers sewing machines for sale, and I usually check out the auction listings whenever the seller posted a new machine. I believe crislon acquires these machines at estate sales.

    One day, I received an email from eBay letting me know that crislon had a Featherweight to sell. Because the seller had perfect feedback and satisfied customers who often noted that machines arrived in better-than-advertised condition, I "bought it now." I think I was the third person to read the ad.

    In the ad, the seller noted that the machine would need servicing, and he explained that it would arrive without a case or accessories. The machine did need a bit of servicing, and luckily, my local repair shop doesn't charge much.

    I don't mind not having the machine's original case. I tote the machine in an insulated cooler, and I already had plenty of suitable presser feet. My Featherweight is a Centennial model and is in very good condition besides having a slightly bent bed extension.

    I so enjoy sewing on my Featherweight! It forms a beautiful stitch and sews for hours without balking. It's cute and it performs beautifully!

    I can't wait to see what you think about your Featherweight. I find that people usually adore or abhor the diminutive machines.

    I really enjoy your blog!

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  45. I also live in a "fabric wasteland," so I feel the need to jump at a fabric deal wherever and whenever I can. I have a lot of trouble resisting a good online fabric sale (good usually means under $5/yard or 40+% off). I've also bought a lot of secondhand fabric, much of which I would not have bought if it were new. Getting over to Jo-Ann requires asking my boyfriend for a ride, so I also stock up on notions when I can.

    It's gotten a bit out of control, however, because I've only been sewing a year and am still very slow, and have waaaay too many projects in the cue!

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  46. Oh, you nearly have me inspired to look for a vintage machine with all your posting! At the moment I have and ugly old grey industrial stuck in the corner of my lounge - this would look so much prettier!

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  47. I really like your blog. I make hats--felt, straw, and buckram fabric covered hats, plus I do a little garment construction. So, do I have a problem when it comes to impulse buying? I certainly do. Fabrics, trims, vintage millinery supplies, it goes on and on. I also have a problem with sewing machines. I have two Singer 221s, a new (old) singer that has never been used, three millinery sewing machines, and one Willcox & Gibbs chain stitch sewing machine.

    I'm missing the Singer 222 freearm and that haunts me. I never have enough attachments for the machines; so, it's always something. Now do I have an impulse problem? I didn't even mention the child's Singer I had to have.

    Oh, if you really like the way the old sewing machines sew, you may want to check out the Willcox & Gibbs (with attachments). You may put the Singer 221 aside for eye candy. Plus, the WG is not hard to look at either. This is the best machine I've ever sewn on.

    Thanks for a beautiful blog.

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  48. Welcome, Lee! You are a very bad influence. ;)

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  49. Congrats on buying the Featherweight I have one I was lucky to find it in a council cleanup in pristine condition I love it! I did not know anything about these machines so I googled and this site is fab for parts and info
    http://www.april1930s.com/
    Have fun!

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  50. I can't buy any more sewing machines because my poor table now has 4 machines plus a serger on it, and might just cry if I crammed anything more on it.

    I can't stop myself from buying fabrics, but always on sale or remnants. Really, if Fashion Fabrics Club wants me to try out a lovely silk chiffon, or some other pricy thing I'd never dream of, and they'll sell it to me for more than half off its regular price, how can I say no? And if Fabric Mart wants to offer me something special for $2 or $3 or $4 per yard, how can I refuse?

    I've spent the winter on the 12-step program: "Hello, I'm Marjie and I'm a fabriholic. I'm sewing down my stash. I'm sewing at least 12 yards per month. I'm staying firm in my resolve not to buy more...." But spring is coming, and my resolve is fading...as soon as I use those 6 springy pieces I bought in November!

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  51. I can stand for hours going through vintage patterns, only to buy 1! But my weakness is new patterns, on sale. I bought all of Marci Tilton's t-shirt patterns when they were under $5. My stash of fabric is embarrassing and sometimes frightening. I plan to have a fabric swap party, as soon as I can bring myself to part with any of it!

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  52. Hmmm. Sewing machine impulse purchases? I have a Featherweight that my mom talked me into buying once when we were at an antique fair. It took me years to get to the point of sewing but now it's the machine I'm drawn to the most, after supplementing it with a planned purchase of a 201, an impulse purchase of a 15-91, an impulse purchase of a 99K, an impulse purchase of another Featherweight (had to have a spare in case anything happened to Featherweight #1 you know), an impulse yard sale purchase of a non-working 1970's I-don't-remember-the-model Singer to get the cabinet, an impulse purchase of a 99 handcrank, and, most recently, an impulse purchase of a 66 treadle after wanting a treadle machine for years and finally finding one for $50 just 5 miles away. But I *really* restrained myself and refrained from buying another treadle when I saw one on Craigslist for a good price with a perfect cabinet and seller offer to deliver. That was hard to resist. Anyway, I'm sure you will enjoy your Featherweight. I can't believe it's taken you this long to get one! I sure am grateful to my mom for getting me started with the vintage Singer obsession with that little Featherweight purchase. I love sewing with it!

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  53. Those Opening Ceremony shoes are an amazing find(you know Opening Ceremony is a super-hip, $$$ store, right? I'm only asking because you didn't know who Jesse James was. Sometimes I fear that you're more up on 1940's pop culture than the 20teens).

    This score confirms it: New York has the best trash.

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  54. Love the sewing machine!
    I am definitely an impulse shopper when it comes to sewing related things, but usually I always check the remnant bin first and that will satisfy my "have to buy fabric now" needs. I would love to come across some of that butterfly fabric - beautiful!

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  55. If you love fabric it is hard not to give in to impulse now and then. It eases the soul.

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  56. Hi Peter, my name is ParisGrrl and I'm an ebay-aholic [Hi, ParisGrrl.] Although I'm not yet ready to admit I need help, haha, I love finding fabulous things online and then tweaking them as needed. Like buying those style-challenged TravelSmith dresses for the fabric, and then turning them into fitted minidresses, oh yeah. Or my latest obsession, hand-rolled vintage silk scarves...even to myself I won't admit how many I now own. And I've also bought two machines online: one was a mistake, a Pfaff coverlock that was in good shape but so hard to figure out how to use that I gave up on it. But the other made up for it...a Bernina Artista that continues to rock my world. I take time to think through the big purchases, but sometimes Buy Now is exactly what the doctor ordered.

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  57. I should add that when I bought that particular fabric, I was saying things like, "what in the world would this be used for?" because of the absolute border striping. It sat around for about five months before I decided that, no, it's not too much to make a dress out of and that the bright, cheerful colors are perfect for a child's spring/summer outfit.

    A lot of my whim fabric is bought to make it so I don't have to pay shipping at fabric.com. I figure that if I'm gonna pay $7 to ship something, I might as well get $7 of fabric and not pay for shipping instead!

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  58. I forgot to mention, if your Featherweight arrives with that musty smell in the case, replace the felt in the bottom of the machine and keep a bar of antibacterial soap (in the wrapper) in the case. It totally knocks out the smell. If it really has gone moldy, you can also air it out in sunlight for a few hours.

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  59. Thanks for the tip! Any day now...

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  60. just found your blog. LOVE IT! Congrats on your new sewing machine. My birthday month is coming up, too, and i may choose to do the same thing...

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  61. I wish we had good finds at the thrift stores around here. I work at a flea market, and alas... mine is not the treasure trove it should be. Mostly really bad self-mixed music, car stereos, and rugs. Lots of rugs.

    I splurge a bit on sewing things. I'm so conscious about every penny I spend on bills and necessities, but when it comes to the fabric store... I am helpless.

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  62. I have 3 featherweights - all bargain purchases and even have 2 of the tables they go into. They're my favorite machines. I know you're gonna have a good time with the one you bought. Congrats!

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  63. Plus they take up such little space. I have a pretty cream one and love looking at it often in my sewing room. It puts a smile on my face and that is what is most important. if it makes you happy...and Happy Birthday to you...what a great gift you did well. I suppose Cathy will want a frock made on it.

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  64. Peter,
    I can appreciate the vintage swimsuit infatuation. but the featherweight will make you cry. for all the wasted time before you had that indestructible aluminium beast. And such a pretty featherweight. I have my grandmothers and love it. i use it every chance i can. i only use the modern machines for zigzags, stretch, and button holes.
    I want to run a test to see if i could sew with only my serger (brother 1034d) and my featherweight. i love the reliability. it always works. never slips snags or fails. my only fault is i need a freearm sometime

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  65. I adopted a cute vintage singer in a precious cabinet in about 60 seconds when another lady offered $20 as she was tossing the machine and wanting the cabinet to paint as a side table. Was that an impulse buy? Lol! It is so sweet with its little stool tucked under and sews beautifully. Sadly I owned a mint featherweight in my younger days and traded it in on a new lemon singer in a cabinet-still mad at myself for that stunt. Enjoy the cute machine. I don't even count the occasional thrift shopping I do as I figure it is helping the charity- if I decide it is not something I decide I can use or a mistake I donate it back so they can sell it again. I take stuff there regularly anyway which is how I find some sewing impulse thing so it can just go back on the next trip. mssewcrazy

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