Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

Not Missing You, Brother!

The very last bit of the third towel on Hedy is waiting to be finished so it can be cut off the loom.  It would probably take all of fifteen minutes, but I haven’t done it yet, because my un-trusty Brother sewing machine doesn’t sew with consistent tension.  (I’m planning to sew the hems on the towels.)  It’s been a hate-hate situation for at least half a year, but I couldn’t bear to spend the $90 (base price) to fix it.  It’s just not where I’d like to see my money go (too many looms to buy).  I know I could have just cut the towels off the loom and get the next warp going, but I’m too linear-minded and I find obstacles like these so disrupting.

I had gotten the fancy-schmancy computerised Brother sewing machine at least six years ago from Costco, to replace an old Singer that would almost dislocate my shoulder every time I needed to move it.  It was delightful at first — featherweight, with three attached thread cutters, and something like eighty different stitches.  (Of which I’d only used three…) It was even self-threading!  Unfortunately, it was also very lightweight, and I probably messed it up whilst trying to sew through six thicknesses of cloth for my son’s diapers and training pants.

A friend (unnamed, to protect the innocent) gave me a machine on indefinite loan (the relative who gave it to her might feel hurt to find it passed on) a few weeks ago, and I thought I was saved.  Unfortunately, she is still looking for the foot pedal and power cable.  And manual.  So, the very nice machine has been gathering dust in my hallway. (Sorry, can’t show a picture, protecting the innocent…  Believe me, it’s a very nice machine.)

I was on my way to pick up a twenty-year old, new-in-the-box Singer for $60 (a CraigsList ad); but I must have sounded half-hearted about it (I was), since I didn’t tell them what time I would see them, and didn’t leave a name or telephone number.  It was sold it to someone else, just before I got there.  For $60, I was mildly disappointed, but not too broken up about it.

Then I found this nicely-maintained Riccar 8500 (forty years old?), for $25.  It may be difficult to believe, but I’m very happy about this machine at this price.  It came with no accessories, except a photocopied manual, and it’s a little loud.  But it will do a forward, reverse, zig-zag, and buttonhole stitch.  Life is good.

The insides are easily accessible to dust, oil, and tweak.  And I have enough information so I can save money by doing the tune-ups myself!  (I couldn’t even say that about my old Singer.)

Everything is very straight-forward and very similar to the old Singer machine I used to have, and not too difficult to lift.  I sigh a bit when having to thread it by hand, but it’s a small price to pay for something with mostly metal parts that I don’t have to pamper in order to sew through four thicknesses of cloth.  It hasn’t been tested on a real project yet, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.


25 September 2008 - Posted by | sewing | , ,


  1. It’s not difficult for me to believe. It has all the style of Jackie Kennedy in a sheath and a pillbox hat! I miss the old metal Kenmores I used to sew on: my mom’s “lightweight” from the late 60’s/early 70’s and my grandma’s retired machine, which was the kind that comes in a cabinet. Better speed control, a powerful purr, better lots of things–only being Kenmores they kept developing problems and having to get (never quite) fixed. The tweakability is certainly an advantage. It’s a huge secret, known only to the elect, where to oil on my Huskystar–seriously, NOWHERE on the internet is there any information. I was told I was supposed to bring it in to a dealer every 2 years for “regular maintenance” that included oiling, which I have not done. I like a machine that will sew through my finger, by gum.

    I’m looking forward to seeing those pretty towels, and your cord. If you find you like spinning bast fibers, I bet you could make a business of being the world’s only supplier of custom loom cord!

    Comment by Trapunto | 25 September 2008 | Reply

  2. I’ve got a Riccar 8500 I’m trying to get working again, but I’m a dope about how to sew. I learned on this very machine, I think, about a decade ago or more. I’ve poured carefully over the instructions, and I think I’m doing something wrong either with the stop motion and handwheel or the bobbin: turning the handwheel toward me will lower the needle, but it won’t raise back up with thread from the bobbin, or raise back up at all until I reverse the handwheel and turn it away from me. If you can help me solve this crazy problem, please let me know: email kendalljoy at gmail dot com.

    Comment by Kendall | 8 June 2011 | Reply

  3. may be yours is a very good sewing-machine. mine is the Riccar 1200. It sews everything I want, also leather. very stable, strong and quiet. I bought it with the nice price of 40€ ! have fun!

    Comment by Johann Gasperl | 23 December 2017 | Reply

  4. Wondering how your Riccar 8500 is holding up. I’ve had mine for 33 years. Haven’t used it much recently… the tension keeps slipping, and the bobbin cover little movable outside lever doesn’t have the spring tension to keep it latched, so stiches keep messing up.
    I’m tired of having it serviced, but have thought about buying a new bobbin cover to see if that does the trick. (One of the metal loopy threaders near the top has broken off, too, so I guess that should also be replaced, although the repair places have never mentioned that it would make a difference.)
    Too many choices make my head spin on having a replacement, and this was a gift from my husband (although he keeps telling me to quit postponing finding a replacement)…But I do like what it can do, if it wouldn’t need constant shop work on that tension…

    I can’t find the manual any more… any way for you to post your photocopied manual if you still have it? Or since you have my email, even though, gratefully, it won’t be posted, would you consider scanning and sending it to me as an attachment?

    Thanks! I know this is not a current posting, but it sure was interesting to see that my model is still found, at least in comments…

    Comment by Ana | 17 April 2018 | Reply

    • Hi Ana,
      I still have my Riccar, but rarely use it, because I haven’t had any time to sew! I do remember that the rubber ring that tensions the bobbin winder is looking a bit cracked, but otherwise, what it really needs is a cleaning and an oiling! I recall having a photocopy of a manual somewhere – give me some time to pull out my machine and look for the manual, and I’ll either post it or e-mail you!

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 17 April 2018 | Reply

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