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Oh man, these are cute - have you seen them? Retro Singer sewing machines

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Okay so let it be known that I have two addictions in life:

1. Pinterest.

2. Window shopping on Amazon.

I am forever in search of a fantastic deal for something that's been sitting on my (or someone in my family or my household's) wishlist (because yes, I have multiple Amazon wishlists [at present, count: 8]). Anywho.

Couple these two addictions with the advent of smart phones and my chronic insomnia and you have the perfect storm. So this morning at 5:32am when I found these little sewing machines (it really was 5:32am) I was so freaking excited, I had to share. Then I started thinking - how could I justify picking up one of these little beauts?? They'd be great for sew-ins and retreats, RIGHT?? Blerg.

I keep hoping I'll magically find my Singer Featherweight at a fantastical garage sale where the person selling has no idea the gem they have and sell it to me for, oh, like, $20. Wouldn't that be nice? Never happens.

I digress! Aren't these cute?

Aqua, pink and butter yellow retro sewing machines for under $100 by Singer sewing machines

They appear to be a special edition of sorts of their "Simple" line of machines, and perhaps their (full sized) answer to Janome's SewMini machines? (pure speculation here on my part)
Janome's SewMini line of pint-sized colorful sewing machines
image from International Housewares Association

I do like them. And the price point at $79 makes me think again, they're trying to compete with Janome in the colorful portable machine market.

The 23 stitches including button holes makes it a pretty viable little machine.

The fact it has a free arm is a bonus, too - (one of the only things I miss on my big Janome)

Normally I'd gravitate to the Petrol (aqua) color but they're all cute. Who am I kidding. They're selling it as an entry-level, beginners sewing machine but really I see it just as much a secondary travel/portable machine for the accomplished sewist/quilter.

(or maybe I'm trying to justify adding it to my wishlist, right? Oy.)

Honestly though, what I DO love is that sewing machine companies are starting to come out with more colors and facades and special editions, making our machines a bit more fun. Have you seen the new rose gold Bernina special edition? I don't know what it does - probably everything and all of the dishes in the kitchen sink - but damn, it looks pretty (...and damn, I wish I had that kind of money...)

These colorful machines are fun. They're not for everyone. But they sure make this quilter smile.

Happy weekend, everyone!

*this post contains affiliate links to Amazon at no additional cost to you. For more information, please visit my Disclosure Statement and Advertising Policies page.

How to save money when buying a sewing machine

Thursday, December 1, 2016

As part of a series of posts I'm *finally* getting the chance to write (of which I've been meaning to, for, oh, over a year) here is the one I've been most looking forward to: how to save money when buying a new sewing machine - or - how to get the absolute MOST bang for your sewing buck. Also, I've included affiliate links in this post for your reference (for more information see below).
ideas on how to save money when buying a sewing machine - how to get more bang (or machine!) for your buck || Sew at Home Mummy

Last year I upgraded my Singer 9960 smaller sized sewing machine to a mid-arm Janome 6500 - a big jump in size (and for me, a big jump in price).

A little background on myself:
I'm a stay at home, Canadian-expat mom living in Chicago. When we first moved here and for the first several years of being here, because of Visa restrictions, I couldn't legally work. My husband was (and still is) the only income. So - money is a bit - tight? Let's just say that we make it as a family of four on an academic's income, and I'm going to gloat here a bit - I think that's mostly due to how inventive I am with our finances.

That inventiveness stretches across how we buy groceries to how we purchase clothing and items for the house to how we fix or repair or improve the house.

If there is a buck to save - I will save it. But ask anyone who knows me - this does not mean that I ever sacrifice quality - especially for my kiddos - it just means that I have to be a bit more conscious of balances and checks...

All of that said: I'm pretty darned good at finding a deal. On anything. Including sewing machines. So here goes - I've listed all of my tricks below for anyone looking for a first machine, an upgrade, an additional machine for retreats and sew-ins and traveling - if you're looking to buy a machine, this is a must read for you!

1. Visit your local quilt shop dealer (shop local, shop small business)

Whenever I can, I try my best to shop local and support small businesses in my area. If you have a local quilt shop or dealer you can make it out to that sells machines you're interested in, visit them. Test drive the machine you're looking at buying, ask questions about warranties, accessories, availability, and more. Ask about upcoming sales and promotions they may be preparing for.

If money is an issue, make it known to the dealer - you'd be surprised how many times I've been in a purchasing position where a dealer or salesperson has dropped the price or found me a better deal because I was so hesitant about spending outside of my comfort zone (and it should be noted that I'm NOT being manipulative when I say this - it's 100% genuine - I freak out about spending money). If at all possible, talk to their head salesperson or store manager - they may be able to get you a better deal. 

Ask about year-end and floor model sales - often you can get a next-to-brand-new machine that may have been used on the showroom floor for a few months for a great deal. If they don't have any available at the moment, ask what time of year is best for floor-model liquidations and ask if they can keep your name on a list of people interested in that machine when they do go to sell it.

Unfortunately with the advent of the internet and clickable shopping from your couch, quilt shops and machine dealers in brick and mortar locations are closing at a faster rate than ever. Consider checking shops that are closing out for any machine liquidations they may be having.

Scratch and dent machines are another awesome thing to ask about: this is how I got such a great deal on my Janome 6500. Also ask about accessory bonuses or free gifts they or the company may include in your machine purchase.

2. Visit traveling quilt shows and exhibits with machine vendors.
Some of the best and most efficient research I did while buying my machine was at a quilt show I visited the fall before purchasing. Every single machine company I was considering was there - Brother, Janome, Bernina, BabyLock, Juki, and more - and so in one day I got to walk around one huge room and drive every single machine which was on my short list. This is the quickest way to fall in love AND eliminate machines from your must haves. I highly suggest it.

Along with being able to drive everything and ask the reps about the machines and warranties, you can get some great deals. Generally speaking, if the dealer is out of state, you won't have to pay sales tax on your purchase. Shipping to your door is almost always free with your purchase. 

Consider returning to the show on the last day - this is when you'll get great "cash and carry" deals on any floor model/show model machines the dealer or company shipped in just for the show - they don't want to pay for return shipping back to their warehouses so they'd rather give deep discounts on these "used" machines than take them back. They'll box them back up in their original packaging and help you out to your car, just like that.

Try to push for great accessories packages at the shows and/or discounts with partnered thread companies (I know several companies that will throw in thread packages or wholesale accounts to thread companies with purchases of bigger and pricier machines).

3. Check the brand's website periodically for promotions.
Once you've narrowed down the machine(s) you're interested in, make sure to visit their company website and sign up for promotional emails, and periodically check their site for discounts or coupons they may be running for use at their dealers.

I know some of the largest companies have promotional financing rates as low as 0% APR at certain times of the year. And different times of the year will see different types of sales and discounts (National Sewing Month (September), Black Friday, Christmas, etc.) at your local dealers, so check the manufacturers sites.

4. Buy vintage/used.
There's something to be said for buying an old sewing machine.

This is a whole 'nother bag of treats - but - do consider buying used, especially vintage. If you're not looking for a lot of bells and whistles on a machine, this may be an excellent option for you. 

For instance, if you're looking to buy a straight-stitch only machine like a Juki 2010 (about $1,000) or Brother 1500 (about $650-700), consider a vintage Singer 201. They have a large harp, are gear driven, and have a perfect straight-stitch. Perhaps not as fast a machine as the newer options, but a reliable one - and easily fixed. A vintage 201 in great shape goes for under $200.

Even if you're looking for a fancier, computerized machine, a trade-in or used machine that's had a good once-over by a dealer may be a great option for you, especially if you're looking at getting into a higher end, more costly brand like a Bernina. 

As around at your local Guild group - see if any of them are selling the machine you're interested in or have the machine you want to buy and are willing to chat about it - put your feelers out.

5. Buy online.
Notice how this didn't make it to the top of the list?

That's because this quilter, sewist, DIYer and author thinks that every effort should be made to save money locally before you click "BUY NOW" on that mouse. For the record, when I bought my machine, I tried hard to get the best deal locally but at the end of the day, the price I got online (from a brick and mortar out of state) couldn't be beat.

I can't stress enough that you need to do ample amounts of research on your machine (especially if you're going to be purchasing one that is costly to you) so that you know what you're getting into. And test driving it first (see above) is key, if you can.

If you decide that buying online is for you, here are a few notes and tips:

Buy out of state: if the company you're purchasing from when buying online is in a state other than yours, you may not have to pay their sales tax. This drops the total cost significantly. Illinois state tax is over 10%. Big savings for me.

✄ Watch for sales: 
To be honest, sewing machines don't often go on sale - but once in a while, you might luck out. Check online retailers for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, National Sewing Month and Christmas deals, just to name a few. I managed to really luck out this Black Friday and picked up the Brother 1034D serger I've been coveting for 4 years on Amazon for the lowest price I have ever seen it.

Add it to your Amazon Wishlist: 
Often times Amazon will alert you via email if  the price of an item you added to your wishlist drops. Make sure to sign up for Wishlist alerts when you're setting up your list. (FYI!) Target also alerts you when you've added something to your cart but not checked out, and the price drops on that item (you need to be logged into your Target account). If you're looking for an entry level analog or computerized machine, Target does sell sewing machines.

✄ Machine availability varies online vs. in store: 
Several manufacturers limit which machines dealers can sell online, and which they can't. For instance, when I was looking to purchase my Janome 6500, I was also looking at their 6600 model which is a step up with a few more options and bells and whistles. The 6600 cannot be sold online or over the phone - it must be purchased in person at a dealer. You'll find that Janome, Bernina, and BabyLock do this (to name a few). Keep this in mind when you're researching your next machine.

✄ Consider more than Amazon
several of the 3rd party sellers you see selling on Amazon also have brick and mortar stores with associated online stores (Sewing Machines Plus comes to mind here, and I think they also have an eBay storefront). The odds of getting a better deal on their main store webpage vs. Amazon or eBay storefronts are probably pretty good. It's easier for them to maintain and run sales on their main pages - so check there first.

✄ Consider "scratch and dent" sales: 
Don't hesitate to contact online retailers over email or phone, ask to speak to/email their sales department and ask if they happen to have any new returned or scratch-and-dent boxes or floor models they might have in your model that they have discounted. If not, ask if they might keep you in mind if one comes in, and leave your name and number for them. This is how I tracked my machine down in New York (see story below).

Often times they have brand new machines with boxes that may have been beat up a bit in shipping from the manufacturer, or, a husband bought his lovely wife a machine but was way off the mark and she returned it, etc. 

✄ Ask about warranties: 
When you buy online, you always have to look into how your warranty on the machine will be handled. Will you be able to take it to an authorized dealer for repairs and have it covered or will you be on the hook for the cost? Note that policies will vary across machine manufacturers.

6. Be patient. Do your research.

I can't stress this part enough. You need to do your research. Visit online retailers for the machine you're considering and read all of the reviews left for that machine (and obviously, use your common sense when reading said reviews - some are absolutely fantastic and others, comical - you can always tell when someone doesn't know what they've gotten themselves into with a machine...). Amazon is a good place to do this - there's a high volume of reviews there. Go to several online merchants and read reviews; read reviews on the manufacturers website (but I never hold as much weight to these ones - I worry about the possibility of a lack-of-candidness). 

Ask in community forums and around your guild group about the machine you're considering. Google it, see what bloggers are saying (but again - take this with a grain of salt, as some big bloggers are actually sent free machines from these manufacturers in return for blogging about it, picturing it on their social media accounts, etc., and so there's a bit of bias there - I tend to believe those who had to pony up their hard earned cash a little more...)

If you're patient about buying, you're more likely to save a bit of coin by waiting for that sale that comes up, like I did with the Black Friday serger deal. Now, the only thing is that I had to wait 4 years, which is ridiculous. Most people can't do that - if you need a machine, you need a machine. But because this was more a luxury item, a secondary machine, I could wait longer. 

So- how did I end up saving on my NEW Janome 6500 machine?
Once I had decided on the machine I wanted and had test driven it at a visiting quilt show, and after checking best prices at my local dealer, I emailed around to out of state brick and mortar dealers, asking if they had any new returns or floor model sales or scratch and dent sales on any Janome 6500s they might have in stock. 
I hit pay load at one online and brick and mortar retailer in New York, who had a Janome 6500 that they had shipped out to someone, UPS had lost it, it finally made it back to their store but the box was beat up. They then sold that machine (at a discount) to a nice lady who was treating herself for her 65th birthday. 
When she got home, a brand new top of the line Bernina was sitting on her dining room table - hubby had bought her a new machine for her birthday. Wowzas.
So, she hadn't even opened the Janome, and brought it back.
I ended up saving over $1,000 off MRSP, got free shipping and a full accessories bonus package. Not bad for just a little time and research.

So! That's it. Those are my tips for saving the most money while still getting the biggest bang for your buck when you're buying a sewing machine. Hopefully someone out there finds some of them helpful.

What's your experience been? Do you have any tricks for saving on sewing machine purchases? I'd love to hear them in the comments!

Attribution: Typewriter graphic from Freepik.

My basement sewing area: in progress, part 4

Monday, November 28, 2016

Checking in today with another progress report on the seemingly never-ending basement redo/reno/waterproofing/lipstick-on-a-pig project that is my sewing space.

I'm not sure whether I'm ruining the effect by periodically sharing my progress or not - but it allows me to sit and tally what I've actually managed to accomplish while two littles are napping or down for the count at night - and that makes me feel a bit better about how long all of this is taking.

(it also lets me total in my head how little I've managed to spend on this whole thing and that makes me feel like giving myself a pat on the back...)

If you haven't read what I've been up to with this sewing space redo, you can read all of the back story posts {here}.

When I last left you, I was finishing up painting windows and trim.

Since then I managed to paint my second IKEA INGO table hack (for my Janome 6500*) to match the table I hacked a few years back for my Singer 201.

(here's the Janome 6500* table just after I cut the hole in the top this summer, waiting for sealing)

My mom and I had picked out this crazy watermelon pink years back for the 201 INGO table, and so while I was leaning toward painting everything white, she convinced me we needed more color in the room (since all of my bookcases and other tables are all white) so off we went to pick up some matching watermelon pink paint.
IKEA INGO dining room table hack - sink a sewing machine into the table. She's painted the bases a bright pink with just a Behr sample sized jar, way cheaper than buying a whole quart.
Dear oh dear, please forgive the absolute chaos in the room and concentrate on the pink. Please.

Sew at Home Mummy Tip:
If you're planning on painting the bottom frame and legs of an INGO table, just buy a sample-sized jar of paint - it's more than enough. It'll cost you about $3 vs $10+ for a quart and you can get it in almost all finishes.
Here I used Behr's Marquee paint in semi-gloss finish.

I sorta feel like I have to defend my choice in paint color here. Not sure why. Maybe because it's, well, pink? Typically I'm more of a blue and green and everything in-between those two colors type'a person, but good ol'mum. She convinces me every day to be more fun. Okay. Rubber arm twisted.

The other sub-project accomplished in the last day (and a relatively big one) was my homemade Roman shades - all made by moi, from a Lotta Jansdotter print on canvas and lined with a heavy black-out lining for more insulation. I'll take some close-ups later, once the room is more organized, but instead of using traditional pull ends on the cords I used vintage wooden spools a friend had given me.
Roman shade DIY blinds for a sewing space - Lotta Jansdotter fabric - and she used vintage wooden thread spools as the cord pulls!
Vintage wooden spools for cord pulls
I have to say, making these shades was pretty time consuming - or maybe it felt that way because I was working on them every night when the kids went to bed and for the fact I had to make 5 of them?

There's been a few other smaller projects I've completed over the weekend - I mounted the pipe for my DIY ceiling fixture in the space above my tables (not an easy task to do by yourself, FYI...) - once it's done and my "I'm just winging it" DIY has actually worked I'll post how I did it, but by my math I think I'll be about $50 all in for 3 custom light fixtures.

I treated myself and picked up this circle shelf* from Target* over the weekend and got it up on the wall.

I also started decorating the wall with some cute 1" shimmery gold circle vinyl stickers from Etsy. I'm only about half-way through doing that in this picture:
circle shelf for sewing area in gold. like the custom Roman shades with the wooden spool pulls. good idea for hanging lights over my sewing table.

Now to finish off my light fixtures and get them wired, and to get my bookcases in and fabric put away.

I'm also thinking I might make a shallow cubby shelf for one of the walls, to store fat quarters in - something like this one from Target* that I see on all of the Pinterest boards:

...but on a slightly larger scale.
Speaking of Pinterest - I am a total Pinterest addict - it's great for inspiration for everything - food, DIY, decorating, hacks, you name it. I'm constantly adding great ideas I find from all over the internet - even in the midst of this project I'm busy adding ideas I can use in the sewing space -

I can't wait to start putting stuff away and getting things organized and cleaned up. I have some plans for the decorating phase of the reno but that comes at the very end - it's like the icing on the cake.

Right now, I'd just love it if I could find my rotary cutters. To be continued...

HEADS UP! Brother 3/4 Stitch Serger Lighting Deal: $152 | Singer Stylist 7258: $90

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Heads up everyone! Sharing the coupon love!

Amazon has the Brother Serger 1034D 3/4 Thread* on right now (for the next 2 hours!) for $152* (MRSP $219.99). Check it out here!*

I've been saving for one of these forever - and happened to have a $50 gift certificate to put towards it! Needless to say, I'm REALLY happy right now!

I noticed that they also have the Singer Stylist 7258* for today for $90 (MRSP $170).
computerized Singer Stylist on sale right now $90

Happy pre-Black Friday shopping!

A quilt for a friend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Recently, one of my husband's colleagues had a very unexpected stroke.

She's the same age as myself (mid-to-late 30's [a lady never divulges her age]), has two littles slightly older than mine, and is probably one of the fittest, friendliest, happiest people I have ever met in my life. She's one of those people that is just so, genuine. Like, when you meet her, you know instantly she has a million friends and everyone loves her. The kind of person you want to be, you strive to be.

Shit like this always happens to the best of people.

She spent some time in hospital, a rehab facility, and then was back in the hospital for a while and was just released again a few days ago.

When my husband's boss sent out the initial email to inform her colleagues of what had happened, my first reactions were

a) panic for her kids,
b) panic for her,
c) talk myself down,
d) crap, I gotta do something. What's she gonna need?

Food. Comfort.

My mom is visiting and was sitting with us when hubby read the email. Mom instantly said she was going to make freezer meals for her and the boys, that she wouldn't feel like cooking when she got out of the rehab facility.

And: Quilters gotta quilt.

I kept this one simple - I tried to use happy, upbeat, girly fabrics for her; several of the prints have text on them - fun stuff to read when she'll be undoubtedly bored out of her tree sitting on the couch convalescing.

(I used Sweetwater's Treehouse Club line -
image courtesy of LouLou's Fabric Shop

Please excuse the wrinkles - I was in a rush and didn't get a chance to iron the quilt before its photo shoot - but in true Sew at Home Mummy fashion, I made the quilt 'double-sided' - the front (or back - you pick) is a simpler strip of the prints bordered in Kona Snow and surrounded by a large negative space of grey. This style of bordering feature prints and adding a plain background is one of my favorite ways to piece a backing.

It finished up at about 47x66, a perfect lap-sized quilt for the couch or chair to snuggle up under.

I hope she likes it. The prints aren't the style I would normally use for a grown-up's quilt, but I wanted it to be fun for her. Light and playful, just like her personality, a reminder to see the bright on a dark day.

Get better soon, J. We're all rooting for you.

You are awesomesauce.