Planning to attend this abstract painting workshop with my mother-in-law (her Mother’s Day gift ;) next month. Sooooooo excited to see Samantha daSilva in action teaching and creating. Her work is totally moving and speaks to something deep inside me. When I see her work I just want to cry out, “Yes!”

To start a new year, my husband and I agreed to purge some things that have been clogging up the basement and sitting unused and uncared for. What better than to sell our miscellanea on Kijiji? First things first, I thought. The sewing machine that I hoped would grace my living room and add a bit of nostalgic charm, but never made it out to the light of day… It must go! But upon witnessing my hubby haul it up to the kitchen and investigating the details below the dust, after plugging it in and seeing it sew a straight line, how could I bring myself to part with something so useful?! Just a little elbow grease and it’ll be functional again…

These are the thoughts of an avid collector and the reason shows like Hoarding: Buried Alive exist. In my defense, I have bitten the bullet and begun to purge my bookshelf… which had admittedly overflowed it’s confines and become stacked and stuffed with excellent, but unread words – hawking my beloved sci-fi/fantasy books for pennies in hopes that they would go on to new homes and new readers; admitting to myself that since the baby’s arrival, I’ve no more time to both inhale new books and re-read old.

Anyways, books and bookcases aside, my Singer sewing machine sits in my kitchen and begs for a clean. Begs for a chance to be useful.

I think that I shall give it a shot. Good-bye Kijiji, see you another year.

In the meantime, here is a bit of good writing that I found on the International Sewing Machine Collectors’ Society‘s website. It didn’t influence my decision, but it did make me feel good about it.

How much is my machine worth? by D.A. Brumleve

My conservative guess is that, between them, ISMACS members on the Internet get around 200 requests for help each week. Despite statements on their pages and on the major ISMACS web sites that requests for valuations will be ignored, about half of the mail fielded is from folk who want to know “What’s it worth”. Our members react in different ways, GF, who suffers the bulk of such mail, dumps the requests straight into the trash. Other members are more gentle and one, Dorothy Brumleve, has produced a page on her website to help those bitten by the worth bug. For other members who are approached by those wanting valuations we reprint it here.

You’ve got Grandma’s Singer 127, or Mom’s Featherweight, or Aunt Naomi’s New Home treadle. And you don’ t want it. Your sister doesn’t want it. Your daughter doesn’t want it. And your daughter says, hey, that’s an antique! I bet it’s worth something!

Something is more than nothing, and your machine probably is worth something to somebody somewhere. But how much? To whom? In what venue? How do you determine the monetary value of something you didn’t buy, don’t know how to use, and don’t want to keep?

First, it’s important to consider the kind of value your machine might have to a buyer. Consider those qualities of your machine which will appeal to a prospective buyer. The reason for the buyer’s purchase will greatly influence the range of monetary value you might expect and may help determine the best marketing approach and venue for your sale.

If it’s really your grandmother’s machine, it could have some sentimental value to someone in her family or in her acquaintance.

Any working sewing machine has utilitarian value for some subset of people who sew.

A pretty sewing machine with a beautiful cabinet or case may well have decorative value to some potential buyers. Included here are machines whose decoration and form provide a striking example of a period style, such as high Victorian, art deco, art nouveux, arts and crafts.

Very old machines and machines which represent an important milestone in the sewing machine industry may have historical value. These would include most very early machines (mid-1800s) by both obscure and renowned manufacturers, and a few later machines. Also included under this heading are machines which have been owned by someone of historical significance, assuming that provenance can be established.

And then there’s collector’s value. Most collections have a focus of some kind, whether intentional or not. A machine which has historical value will always be of interest to some collectors, but there are also those who focus on machines with decorative and/or utilitarian value. Some collectors limit their collection to a given manufacturer; in the United States, Singer is unquestionably the most-often collected brand. Some collect only hand-cranked machines, others only treadles. Some collect only very small or toy machines. Some collect only from a specific time period. Some collect machines based on the country of origin.

A real “boat anchor” with little potential for restoration may still have value for its parts. Both collectors and people who sew seek out broken or incomplete machines in order to restore a better example of the same machine which is missing parts. And there are also folks who convert parts of sewing machines into lamps and cabinets and such; they are looking for parts machines, too. The potential monetary value of a parts machine will be influenced by the value of a good example of the same machine.

How does all this translate into monetary value?

On a given day, a sewing machine is worth what a particular seller can sell it for to a particular buyer in a particular venue. Season, geographic region, marketplace, personality, manufacturer, model, rarity, condition, history, completeness — and the reason the buyer is buying — all these factors influence monetary value. Value is not fixed, but fluid. Even so, it’s a good thing to consider that relatively few machines today command prices in the hundreds of dollars — and very, very few will bring thousands.

You can always consult a professional appraiser. You’d pay a fee, of course, and there’s a significant risk that the fee would be more than the value of the machine.

Here are some tips for estimating the current retail value of your machine. Professional appraisers would bring some of the same resources to this task. You can learn an approximate retail value for your machine by investing a little time in research. If you actually want to sell it at that price, you’ll probably then have to invest a lot more time in marketing.

(1) Take your machine to an experienced antique dealer. How much does she/he offer you? Multiply by at least 2.

(2) Find a similar machine at a busy antique store. Note the sticker price. Then ask the dealer how many years and months the machine has been sitting there with that price on it. Halve the dealer’s price for every three months it has sat unsold.

(3) Post your machine on the eBay.com auction website for $9 with no reserve. Don’t misspell “sewing machine”. If your auction attracts bids, you’ll soon know what it’s worth at that time in that venue to those bidders. If it doesn’t attract any bids, it’s not worth even $9 at that time in that venue to those bidders.

(4) Watch eBay.com for the sale of similar machines. Bookmark the auction pages and go back and see what the final selling price is, assuming the machines actually sell and any reserve is met. How does your machine really compare with the sold machine? Be critical! Could you take pictures as well as the dealer who sold on eBay? Could you write as good a description? Are you willing to put in the time taking those pictures, writing that description, doing the accounting, and packaging this machine for safe shipment? If not, divide the eBay price by four and go back to your antique dealer with a printout of the auction page and a counter-offer.

(5) Search the web for machines like yours for sale by individual dealers and online antique malls. Note the price, and watch to see if they sell at that price.

(6) Read the ISMACS News quarterly magazine for auction results.

(7) Learn more about the history of your machine. Was the manufacturer financially successful? Were many of these machines made? Do many survive? Rarity is a major influence on value. Is your machine post-WWII? Is it from the 20th Century? Is it from the 19th Century? Age is a factor that impacts on rarity. The first practical sewing machine was invented in 1851; the closer to that date a given machine was made, the more it will likely be worth:

For 19th-Century machines, there’s a fairly useful rarity chart in Carter Bays’ book (The Encyclopedia of Early American Sewing Machines). It’s a mistake to rely on any price guide, but the relative rarity of the various machines in his book is fairly accurately represented. A machine that is very rare in Bays book will likely be more coveted by collectors (and therefore worth more) than a machine that is considered common. Another good source of production figures — and thus of rarity — is Cooper (The Invention of the Sewing Machine). If you discover your machine is indeed rare, I would strongly advise you to seek a professional in-person appraisal from someone who does not intend to buy the machine from you.

Most 20th-Century machines were made in the millions, and most survive in great numbers. In many cases, this will hold down retail value. Some 20th-Century machine names are rare, but the machine model itself is likely to be common under a number of names. A very few plentiful models have commanded higher prices when the demand has been so great that it has outstripped even a generous supply. Most 20th-Century machines have a greater value as a piece of useful equipment than as a collector’s item. As a rule, machines made of plastic and machines made in Japan command garage sale prices.

Suppose you’ve followed these steps and have discovered that your machine is worth very little money. Should you just throw it away? Not necessarily.

Nearly all machines could be useful to someone somewhere for parts. Sometimes the parts will bring much more than the whole, in fact. Bedslides, cams, wheels, etc. from a  20th-Century Singer are especially sought-after, as these are commonly in actual use today and replacement parts are getting harder to find. Collectors also seek out parts machines to restore both common and uncommon 19th-Century machines.

A machine owned by a family member may well be worth more in sentiment than in dollars. If you find that your machine will not bring riches, consider letting it bring pleasure instead. Even if closer relatives have rejected it, you could seek further: a grandchild, niece, nephew, or cousin might greatly enjoy a gift of your machine.

Here is an original piece that has been leaning beside me on my desk all season, cheering me up. It was sent by a dear friend and I love that the subject matter is literally ‘sending mail’. Hamish is so excited for the walk to the mailbox that he wants to go faster ;)

2011 - New Year's Mail

Deep breath in ((((((ahhhh))))))

And… exhale (((((oohhhhh)))) Yeah, 2010 is in the can and I’m glad it’s time to move on to new beginnings. I’m taking a little time to tie up old projects and tidy the office (and kitchen table), but the future is a clean slate. Actually, a friend has a habit of calling Mondays ‘Clean Slate Mondays‘ ~ and at 1:30am, it’s Monday already, so it seems like I’m in sync with the cosmic universe of new beginnings. Today is a day to dust away the cobwebs, steam mop the kitchen floor and let my baby drool all over it again ;)

I sent out nearly 80 Christmas cards, but have a pile of them here – addressed, stamped, and some even written, but not mailed yet… a project soon to be finished. With 4,009 words of essay submitted to the uni on Friday, I almost don’t know what to do with myself. Feel like twirling my arms like windmills. Or throwing a dart and seeing where it lands…

I had my first bookbinding attempt exhibited at the local university this past year. It was incredibly exciting! The caliber of artists in the local guild is amazing. I feel so dwarfed, but inspired.

I’m committing to the WordPress goal of posting every week in 2011, so hopefully this will help to record and track my projects before they make their way out the door and into the mailboxes of others ;)

Here’s to a new year of pretty paper possibilities!

Today I am creating and returning mail art to the two authors of A Good Mail Day, Jennie Hinchcliff & Carolee Gilligan Wheeler. These two darling women not only wrote a fabulous book that celebrates sending wacky, tacky and marvelously obscure artwork through the mail, but low and behold, they sent ME a thank you package for the review posted last fall on Canadian Girl Scout’s blog :)

Such a coup to find feedback to my blog musings (and in such a tangible format too)! My husband was wowed and astonished. For a moment I felt like a celebrity as I showed him the spread of goodies packed up by the authors and shipped all the way from San Fran to Canada.

Just confirmation that a good word put in for someone, no matter how far away, how quietly or anonymous, really does come back to you. (Certainly this is true for the opposite as well, so let’s watch what tongue, pen and keyboard puts into existence.) Today is a day to feel the good vibes of the universe…. and the interconnectedness of us all.A Surprise In The Mail

Hello… The miracle has happened! My little son was born one week ago. I am trying to get a handle on this ‘Mom’ thing. It’s rather difficult. Much more painful and awkward than I ever imagined… but I do so love looking into the little guy’s eyes.

Here is a postcard that I received today, on this his 1 week birthday, at a time when breastfeeding makes both of us grumpy and sad and feel like crying… but we do have odd moments of contentment similar to this image. I am praying that there will be many more in the future.

1 week birthday postcard

I am constantly being overwhelmed by the quality and uniqueness of items that land inside my mailbox. Today was no exception. I received a beautiful lilac coloured pencil called ‘Mountain Morn’ from Lea Redmond for the With A Pencil In My Pocket project and two antique postcards from a flea market in Paris. The postcards are in cellophane sleeves, are stamped, cancelled and handwritten. One of them begins like this, “Ma Chère Amie” (…my dear friend). They were sent inside an envelope by a Postcrosser in France. How kind people are to consider your likes and dislikes, to hunt for something just for you and to Frank it all the way across the ocean! My mailbox has truly been blessed this past season… I will update all the unexpected goodies that have landed inside shortly ;)

I’m scrambling to write 4,000 words of essay, business case and powerpoint presentation for the 1st Records Management course of my master’s degree by the end of the week… but I had to take a break to post this link to a fabulous 500 Colored Pencils Project that I will be participating in this year. There are 10 spots still open! What a joy and excitement to look for a scrumptiously coloured (<–Canadian, i.e. correct spelling ;) pencil in my mailbox each month. The idea, put forward by one of my favorite entrepreneurs Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Designs, will then take me on an adventure to find a true-life story each month exemplifying the essence of this specially chosen coloured pencil. My mailbox is sooooo excited to start 2010!

Happy New Years everyone!

500 Colored Pencils

500 Colored Pencil Crayons

Mail To Be Mailed

Oh it’s been a month! I’ve received some incredible mail and have so much to update, but sending mail has been my priority these past few weeks. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Off to the postbox.

This bundle of 42 pieces went into the red Canada Post box last week… All stamped, addressed, labeled, stickered (some were even scented with pine) and hand written :) I’m now working on batch two, which will go to the USA and contain about 55 more postcards and Christmas envelopes (mostly for my 43 Things friends). So yes, I love all your mail and will respond asap, but my mind won’t let me rest until I get this most noble task of Christmas Cards checked off my to do list.

An Austrian mailbox waiting for some goodies to be ‘plunked’ into it.  I can imagine the sound letters would make as they dropped down into it.

I found this yummy photo on Wikimedia Commons today and began to think of all the inspiration for art and crafts and just thinking…. about life that rummaging through the Commons photos would bring.  I have uploaded a few of my own photos to the Commons when I knew that they would illustrate a Wikipedia article well, and I must say that I think they add nicely (see the article on Standing Stones or The Clearances), but today is the first day that I’ve thought about other uses for the Commons.  For instance, this blog.  Wikimedia Commons makes available over 5,000,000 photos for use under a creative commons license.  Each photograph clearly states what you are allowed or not allowed to do with it.  I think that I just need to mention that a Wikipedian named “Moschitz” took this photo.  Anyhoo, take some time to ramble around on Wikipedia or Wikimedia Commons to learn some stuff, get inspired, get enthralled and add your teensy weensy bit of expertise to the knowledge bank of our global community.

Austrian Mailbox