Category Archives: Odds and sods

This ‘n’ that … and the last of the bargains in the basement



First off this week, I’ve been meaning to post this picture ever since Andrew kindly sent it to me.  This is the adaptor I was referring to in November when I was rambling on about how once upon a time people could plug things like a sewing machine into a table lamp or indeed a pendant light fitting and still get to see what they were doing.

Andrew’s is actually the posh version with the push switch controlling the socket on the side, and as it’s seen in the picture, both bulbs will light up when the whole shebang’s plugged into a light fitting.  When that red push switch is pushed back towards the camera (from the other side of the adaptor), only the “straight ahead” bulb is lit.  Substitute the connector on your sewing machine for that bulb on the side and off you go!  For total authenticity though, make sure the whole thing’s plugged into a light fitting which has a parchment shade which smells hot and has both scorch marks and a looped decorative trim dangling all the way round it …

Moving on, I must just mention before I forget that Joan, one of the ladies in the States who’s bought a fair few bits and pieces from us over the last year or so, has recently celebrated her 62nd wedding anniversary!  That certainly makes our own 31 years seem a bit insignificant, but we were interested to learn of Joan’s theory that collecting interesting sewing things contributes greatly to longevity.  Whatever, all the very best from us to Joan and Jim in Michigan 🙂

And now we get to today’s news, which is that from now on this blog’s being relegated to the back burner.  And of course you want to know why, so I’d better tell you …

Two years ago today, Elsie was diagnosed with cancer.  When I started this blog five months later, we’d done the surgery, we’d just finished chemotherapy, and it gave us something different to think about and do while we waited to start radiotherapy.  We had a few ups and downs after radio and then more surgery, but now it’s just a matter of a hormone pill a day for another three and a half years, and fingers crossed it’s all good 🙂

So … Elsie and I need to move on.  We’ve thinned out the Singer collection a bit and gained some much-needed space.  We have other fish to fry, and I have my Elna Grasshopper blog which really is in dire need of bringing up to speed.  Seeing as how that’s very much a minority interest compared to the world of vintage Singers and we’re only talking about one particular machine, it won’t eat up as much of my time as this blog has and the correspondence which it generates does.  At least that’s the plan.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, I’ve just updated the bargain basement page to show accurately what we have left, so if there’s anything there that you fancy,  get in quick and grab yourself a bargain because when they’re gone, they’re gone.  Which has to be one of the most banal and singulary stupid slogans ever, but never mind.

Have a good weekend folks, and be happy.

Edited to add In view of the comments that are being posted, we’d both like to say thank you for your very kind words, and to point out that I will still be rambling on from time to time, only on the Elna Grasshopper blog.   So do check it out from time to time.  Who knows, you might even develop an interest in the amazing little green thing yourself …

Gosh. Now look what we’ve done …


All American Pressure Canner Regular readers will recognise Stoner the Bear, but I guess it’ll mainly be our American readers who will also recognise that shiny thing with knobs on.

Yep, we’ve gone and bought ourselves a genuine (pronounced gen-yoo-ein) All American Pressure Canner, and it arrived at lunchtime today having left Wisconsin just three days ago.

We long ago realised that nobody in Europe makes a decent pressure canner, so if we wanted one we’d be stuck with buying from the States via Amazon , but we always said we couldn’t justify paying the horrendous price for the real deal plus shipping.  Having done all the research, though, we knew we wouldn’t be happy with anything less than an All American, so there the matter rested.

Or it did until last week, when I finally said “Sod it, we’re only old once, so let’s buy the thing.”  We’ve always worked on the principle that if in doubt, “oh what the hell” is always the right decision.

So we bought one, and we’re well impressed with it even before we’ve used it.  Can’t say we were impressed with the packaging, but against all the odds it did actually get here undamaged.  Just.

Verily, this thing is the Harley Davidson of pressure canners/cookers.

Now, what Brit readers are wondering is why, when we’ve been successfully bottling fruit for years, do we now have need of a pressure canner?  Well,  the answer is the vegetables we grow.  Without a pressure canner, we simply can’t bottle vegetables safely.  Yes, we do have a freezer, but not one big enough to freeze what we want to grow for store.  And besides, with bottled (canned) veg as well as fruit, we’re independent of the mains electric supply.


That shot’s for the benefit of any UK readers who might wonder how many Kilner jars you can get in a 21.5 quart All American Pressure Canner.  That’s six of the 2lb “Dual Purpose” ones, and it looks like 12 of the 1lb ones will work too.

The instructions are comprehensive and typically American (and I don’t just mean all the references to quarts and bushels), although you are left wondering about “pole beans” and “string beans”.  At the moment it seems to us that pole beans are runner beans and string beans are French beans, but if anybody knows for sure, do please add a comment now and clarify it for us!

Finally, it’s just occurred to me that by cropping that top picture as tight as I have, I’ve cut Willie Nelson out and he hasn’t featured on this blog hitherto.  Willie’s the dog who lays on top of the beanbag which sits in that corner of the kitchen to the right and keeps the two kettles hot after they’ve boiled on that stove in the background so we have free hot water all day long during the winter.  He’s called Willie because Elsie made a long handle/lifter-upper thing for the beanbag in a somewhat ethnic-looking fabric, and when we let go of it having put a kettle under the bag, it tends to fall round the top of his head …

Have a good weekend, folks.

Why is WordPress so slow nowadays?


Does anybody know?  Is anybody else vexed by this slowness?  For the last month or two it’s just seemed to be getting slower and slower, irrespective of time of day, time of high tide or conjunction of the planets, until now it takes for ever and a day to write a post and upload the pictures.

I don’t think it’s anything at this end, because the only sites I’ve noticed the lethargy on are WordPress and, and unusually, Googling the problem hasn’t shed any light on it so far, which is a real PITA because I’ve got a long-winded post to do with lots of pictures.

Is there anybody out there’s up to speed with this sort of stuff and might be able to solve the mystery?  I guess it would help to know that I’m on BT Broadband in the UK, with a virus- and malware-free puter running Windows 7 and Firefox current version.

Whatever, have a good weekend, folks.  Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible …


The Singer Swiss Zigzagger 160990, carlessness and seven types of salad crop


If you’ve been hankering after a Singer Swiss Zigzagger 160990, permit me to direct your attention to the one I just listed on our Bits ‘n’ Bobs page.  It works a treat, and cosmetically both the attachment and its case are excellent.  However, the feed cover plate (which is the correct one!) has lost its chrome in a small area as can be seen in the picture to the left of the central slot (the smudge to the right of that slot is a greasy fingermark!), and this one comes without instructions or the cams needed for the fancy stitches.

Having said that, the Swiss zigzagger does a very nice variable-width zigzag stitch with just the built-in cam, the instructions are on the interweb, and this one’s listed now at about half the price it would be with cams and book of words.

If all goes well, the next post should be all about the 1933 Singer Illustrated Catalogue and Price List which Syd was kind enough to leave with me for scanning when he and Carol came to pick up some stuff from us on Thursday.  As they drove off, it occurred to us that in another week or so, we’ll have been carless now for three months – and the only time we’ve really noticed was when I had a hospital appointment which meant a bus trip there and back!

It would probably be interesting to work out how much money that’s saved us so far, but … erm … neither of us can be bothered to do the calculations.  I can though tell you that it looks like by the time we’ve had our electric bikes a year, I’ll have done well over 1500 miles on mine.

And that leaves us with the seven types of home-grown organic salad crop which Elsie announced were on her plate at lunchtime today.  There was lettuce (A foglia di quercia, since you asked – cheap seed from Lidl), American Cress, Mizuna, Green In Snow, Komatsuna, Southern Giant and Winter Purslane, which I personally don’t think is bad going for well into November at this latitude.  That all went with the lovely organic eggs from Clarice and Phyllis, and some halfway-decent inorganic tomatoes from Lidl now that ours are finished.

Being the more conservative member of the household where greens are concerned (he means faddy – E), I stuck to my lettuce as usual.  And seeing as how you’re obviously now anxious to know, that was followed by delicious bread buns made from home-ground organic spelt grain, yeast, water and salt, baked free of charge on top of the woodstove, with, in Elsie’s case, the stinky kipper fillets in something disgusting which she eats from time to time.  Why she eats that stuff when she could eat good wholesome organic cheese like I do, I have no idea.

Having said that though, I’ve no idea why Elsie insists on growing Jerusalem artichokes every year but she does, and she’s just now wandered down the garden in the rain intent upon putting a wheelbarrow full of the things into store.  Horrible things, Jerusalem artichokes.  Artichokes, fartichokes …

How a Sewing Machine Works – Take 2


Last September, I posted a link to a YouTube video we’d come across which we thought was wonderful entertainment.  And we still do.  It’s called How a Sewing Machine Works, and the link to it’s in this post.

Twelve months on, Cathy’s just sent us a link to another YouTube video about how a sewing machine works.  This one’s called The Secret of the Sewing Machine, or rather it would be if it wasn’t in German, which it is, but don’t let that put you off.  It’s really informative even if you don’t understand a word of the narration.

Incidentally, the machine used for the close-ups has a vertical bobbin like the Singer 15 and the Featherweight do, so the large-scale demo’s done in the vertical plane too.  If the bobbin in your machine’s horizontal, the only difference with yours is that there’s a 90° bend in the thread path.  The principle’s exactly the same as shown in this video.

Elsie’s just reminded me that I haven’t updated those of you who might be interested in This Year’s Harvest.  The short story is that some crops didn’t happen at all, and everything else is three weeks or so late.  The potato crop was down by 75%, and the rhubarb was practically tasteless until we finally got ten days or so of sunshine, at which point it decided to start tasting like it should.  Our pear crop was poor, and there were no damsons at all either on our own tree or the big one in town which usually provides most of our huge stash of damson jam.

Our Morello cherry decided not to bother this year, for the first time ever.  Even the poor old walnut tree on the way out of town is totally walnutless.  Not only that, but it’s got some disease or other.  It’s not a happy tree.  Our own apple crop isn’t far short of normal, but the big old tree up the lane from which we reckon to get all the apples we ever need for dried apple rings, chutney and numerous apple crumbles did nothing at all.

It’s not all bad, though.  Blackcurrants and blueberries did well enough as did all the beans, and although it’s late, the sweetcorn’s not doing so bad considering it’s hardly had any sunshine on it.  We’ll be alright for sauerkraut this winter once the special cabbages are finally ready, but the big success story of the year turned out to be … cucumbers.  154 of them.

There’s a lot of pickled cucumber and cucumber relish in the store cupbord now …

Singer zigzag attachments and a 99K on a bike


“I’m just off down to the dump with the remains of a 99.  Won’t be long” says I to Elsie, who came wandering up the garden path so we could go through the ritual “Have you got your phone, keys, hankie, wallet, teeth …” routine.  But this time, she pointed out that whereas it’s perfectly normal for us to take a dead sewing machine to the dump recycling centre on the back of a bike, it’s not exactly a mainstream activity, so maybe this should be immortalised on the blog, whereupon she went and got the camera.

So now you know what that picture’s about.  Anyhow, if carrying a vintage Singer on the back of a bike is a bit unusual, I guess that taking two of them to the dump in a trailer behind a bike is really peculiar, so we’ll try and remember to take a snap or two next time I do just that.

Moving on now to Singer zigzaggers, and specifically the big black ones, I listed a 161102 for sale on our Bits ‘n’ Bobs page yesterday for which we had a buyer within 4 hours, but we hope to have another good one ready next week.

Mention of the Bits ‘n’ Bobs page prompts me to explain that we’ve changed it back from “Accessories” on account of I changed it from “Bits ‘n’ Bobs” to “Accessories” when I added the “Parts” page a few months ago, but as I never got round to getting the parts page off the ground, it’s gone now and we’re back as we were.  Keeping it simple is always good.

Talking of bikes, and seeing as how it’s a Friday, here’s something a little different …

Have a good weekend, folks.

Carlessness ‘n’ stuff




Now we have

No car

Yep, it’s gone.   We have finally achieved a state of carlessness.  No more car insurance.  Car tax* .  Depreciation.  MOT tests.  Repair bills.  Servicing.  Tyres.  Wiper blades.  And all the rest.

No more washing the thing, vacuuming the inside, checking the tyre pressures, checking the oil and the coolant, de-icing it on a winter’s morning.  No more getting stuck in traffic.  Road works.  Speed cameras.  Finding a parking space.

No more £6.30 a gallon for diesel.

And that’s just off the top of my head.  From now on we walk, we get on our bikes, get on a bus, get on a train or phone for a taxi.

Or we stay at home.

* For the benefit of our overseas readership I’d better explain that in the UK, car owners pay a car tax based on engine size and C02 emissions.  For most ordinary cars it’s £100-150 a year, and its proper name is vehicle excise duty.  Some people call it “road tax”, particularly when they’re shouting at cyclists, who they think have no right to be on the roads because cyclists don’t pay “road tax”. 

This amuses many of the cyclists who are shouted at, because apart from anything else, there is no such thing as “road tax”.  True, at one time, Brit motorists bought an annual Road Fund Licence which did indeed go towards paying for roads, but that was abolished in 1937, since which time road building and maintenance in the UK has been financed from general taxation.

Anyhow … I had a look at the stats for this blog last night and was amazed to see that we’re now getting a consistent 400+ page views a day, with visitors from literally all over the planet.  What surprised me even more is that we now have 201 followers, so by way of celebration of that, here’s a great rendition of “Sweet Georgia Brown” …

Have a good weekend, folks 🙂

Singer zigzagger cams, the everlasting washing-up brush, and other stuff


Late last year, it finally dawned on me that we were buying a new washing-up brush every 4-5 weeks.

At one time, their short lifespan wasn’t particularly a problem, because we used to buy the blue 5-for-not-very-much-at-all ones from Ikea whenever we resigned ourselves to going in the place.  But then, oh happy day, it dawned on us that now we didn’t need anything else from Ikea, ever.  So we stopped going there.  Sure, we miss out on the entertainment provided by the young couples arguing over whether to get the FYRKANTIGS or the DAGSTORPS, and the mothers freaking out in the checkout queue because their objectionable child needs to go to the toilet now, but actually life’s still pretty good without Ikea.

However, it started really getting to me that every month or so, “wupbrush” appeared on the shopping-list blackboard in the kitchen so next time I went shopping I spent 70p or so on another one.  There had to be an alternative.

And there is!  It is the Lakeland Professional Washing-up Brush, which comes in a pack of two for £5.99.  These things seem to be indestructible.  The one pictured just now on the draining board has been used every single day for the last 9 months, during which time I’d have spent something like £4 on vastly inferior supermarket brushes,  it is still as good as new – and we do the dishes in seriously hot water in this house!  So if you’re in the UK, I really do commend this product to you, especially if, like us, you delight in frugality.

Amazing what you read about on here, isn’t it?

Anyhow, Singer zigzagger cams.  Elsie’s found some zigzagger cams which we didn’t realise we had, so we need to have a good old sort out of what’s what and I need to take some pictures so we can get them on the “Parts” page.  Meanwhile, if you’re short of any cams for your Swiss Zigzagger, let us know what you’re after and we’ll see what we can do.  I know that apart from anything else, we have one complete cased set of 10 as supplied with the snail-shell version (160991).

We also have some spare cams (or what Singer called “stitch patterns”) for the big black zigzaggers, including one or two from 161008 sets i.e. those early red versions of the white cams.  Again, let us know if you’re after any.

Moving on, it seems that Elsie and I are now closer to achieving a state of carlessness (as opposed to carelessness), about which there’s bound to be more in due course, and before much longer I’ll be coming out of the closet and revealing an interest in some vintage Singers which don’t have a single gold decal anywhere on them.  Gosh.

But right now, I need to set to and write Part Two of what’s in danger of turning into Everything You Ever Needed To Know About Singer 201K Tension But Were Afraid To Ask, so I’ll get the kettle on.  I need another coffee, and Elsie’s about due back from her first brambling expedition of the year.  She’s bound to be in need of a camomile tea …

So, the Olympics are in England. That’s the UK, right?


I’ve been trying to think of some ingenious way in which I could weave the Olympics into a thread about, say, how to set up the check spring on your 66K, but try as I might, I couldn’t do it.  And believe me I tried.

But even though nowadays Elsie and I have no interest in sport, it would be churlish of me to ignore completely this whole Olympics thing.  So bear with me while I subject you to a post which has no relevance whatsoever to vintage Singers – unless of course you count the inspiration for what follows, which was an email exchange I had earlier this year with a guy in Canada from whom I was considering buying a rather rare attachment.

I needed to know what the shipping cost would be, and he quoted me a price which seemed excessive.   Fortunately I knew what the packed weight was likely to be, so I checked on the Canada Post website and came up with a figure about 50% cheaper.  Thanks to our subsequent email exchange, I now know that if you are in Canada and you wish to send a parcel to London, the cost of so doing, as calculated by the Canada Post website, depends on whether you enter the destination country as “England” or “UK”.  Which, if you are a Brit, is bizarre.

If, however, you’re the average American (or maybe even the average Canadian), it’s actually this whole England / Britain / UK thing which is bizarre.  So now, when we are led to believe that the eyes of the whole world are or will shortly be on the London Olympics, here’s a simple explanation of the whole thing.  It’s based on an article on the BBC news website written by Jon Kelly and Hussain Hussaini, edited and amended for clarification.  OK, here we go …

The English are British.  Lots of people think that the British are the English, but that annoys the Scots and the Welsh, because although most Scots and most Welsh know that they’re British, even if they don’t speak English, some of them think they aren’t, and some think they are but they wish they weren’t.  Scottish and Welsh people alike can though be relied upon to tell you emphatically that they are not English.

So can the Irish.  Ireland is an island, five-sixths of which is The Republic Of Ireland, which is nothing to do with the UK.  The other one-sixth is Northern Ireland, which is.

Most Irish people consider themselves to be Irish, apart from the Northern Irish, some of whom say that they are both British and Irish.  Others disagree and say they’re not exactly Irish, but they aren’t British either because although Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, it’s not part of Great Britain.

Great Britain is a political term, by which is meant England, Wales and Scotland.  Add Northern Ireland to those three and you get the United Kingdom, which is just the short form of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

People from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland may all play cricket for England, because they are British. People from Ireland may play cricket for England, even though they aren’t British.  The English play football for England, unless they aren’t very good at it, in which case they might try to play for Ireland.

The Isle of Wight, Anglesey, the Orkneys and the Isle of Man are, like Scotland and Wales, all part of the British Isles.  People from the Isle of Wight are English, those from Anglesey are Welsh, and those from the Orkneys are Scottish, and they are all British.  However, people from the Isle of Man are not, because even though it lies half-way between the island of Ireland and England, which is of course itself also part of an island, the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom.

So there you go.  A quick and simple guide to help the easily confused.  Maybe somebody from Canada Post will read this one day …

How to make a Carrot Cake – by Sid


1.  Wander off down garden and dig up a few carrots.  While you’re there, see if Phyllis and Clarice have done their eggs and if they have, say “thank you very much” and bring eggs back to kitchen.

2.  Put eggs in tray in kitchen.

3.  Go back down garden and retrieve carrots from roof of chicken house.

4.  Wash carrots.

3.  Furtle about under stairs and find stone jar in which are stored last of walnuts gathered from tree by roadside on way to Farm Shop last year.  Crack one open to check if still OK, then open some more to go in cake.  Eat remainder and be amazed by how well they stored.

4.  Go to freezer and take out frozen grated outer skin (zest?) of one organic orange.  (We always grate the outside of an orange before we eat it, so we can make lots of carrot cakes.)

5.  Go to grain bin and take out 4 ounces or thereabouts of organic spelt grain.  Remind Elsie that we need to order some more soon.

6.  Grind flour

7.  Chop walnuts, and grate a couple of the bigger carrots.  Save the others to accompany next meal.

8.  Put oven on to warm up to 180°C.

9.  Empty fruit, cycling gloves and piece of string from medium-size Mason Cash mixing bowl which doubles as fruit bowl, blow dust out of bowl, and put 4oz organic butter plus 4oz unrefined sugar in it.  Stir together until creamy, add the eggs and stir lots more.

10.  Add the flour, 1 tbsp baking powder and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.  Give it all a jolly good mixing, then add an ounce or so of raisins, your chopped walnuts (an ounce or so), your grated carrots and the orange rind/zest or whatever it’s called and mix them in.

11.  Add a little splosh of 100% orange juice if it looks a bit dry, and mix until you’re fed up of doing it.

12.  Tip into greased cake tin and bung in oven for maybe half an hour or until you can push a knife into it and take it out without anything sticking to the blade.

13.  Remove from cake tin and leave on wire rack to cool.

14.  Mix some softened butter with icing sugar to make idiot icing for top of cake, and try to spread it on top without buggering up the cake, which is still quite hot and tends to fall apart if you’re not careful.

15.  Wait until it’s cooled down a bit, then pig out on seriously scrummy carrot cake!

Here’s a rotten snap of the finished product being checked out by a couple of passing sheep …