Saturday, June 30, 2012

Zig Zag through the years with Singer

This is my little family of Singer zig zag attachments and here are samples of the stitching (begging pardon for my sloppy, crooked rows). 

Stitch quality is almost the same - in fact the two earlier models actually make a slightly better satin stitch.  But all make a perfectly nice zig zag.   Here is the difference in operation: the oldest model works like this (bight is adjust by a screw in the back) 

This one runs a tad smoother, I think, but the main advantage is that you can change bights to N-M-W with a gauge on the side rather than just a screw on the back like the older model.

  These two models both come with an edge stitcher which can be attached so that you can stitch on the very edge of the fabric or join a piece of lace right to the edge like this: 

And they also have a cording slot so you can zigzag over a cord or thread for gathering.  Very useful!

The most contemporary model is also the biggest.  It is actually rather huge!  This is the Singer Automatic Zig Zag Attachment which takes cams to make different decorative stitches.  Here it is in operation doing the zig zag stitch and a deco stitch:

This is a rather amusing gadget which makes surprisingly nice stitching.  It comes with a set of four cams, and three more sets of four are available. (If you want to see all the stitch patterns, LOOK HERE.)  But the drawback, apart from the clunky size, is that it does not have the edging attachment.  That makes it very difficult to do some of the tasks that you would normally do with a zigzag such as stitching very close to fabric edges to finish seams, doing lace insertions, or zigzagging over cording.   I look at this model primarily as a decorative stitcher.  

The first model - the oldest one - not only works great, but is small enough to pop into my Featherweight case.  Actually it isn't any bigger than the standard issue ruffler attachment, and somehow it's dainty size just seems more suited to the FW.

So why do I even keep all these around when I have a Slant-o-Matic to do my zigzagging?  If you have to ask, then you just haven't played with vintage sewing machine attachments enough to know how fun it is to use them!  :)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Narrow Hemmer feet - they are not created equal!

For years I have tried to master that seemingly simple foot that comes standard in the old Singer accessory box - the "foot hemmer" that makes a narrow, rolled hem.   Every now and then I'd take it out and try it again hoping this time I'd get the perfect narrow hem they show in the illustration.  But it never worked for me.  The hem was never straight and evenly turned ....NEVER!

So I decided to try it again the other day and this time I happened to take the foot from a different accessory box rather than the box I've always used.  I didn't even think about it making a difference, I just grabbed the one that was handy.  And what can I say?  Here it is, THE PERFECT HEM, done with the good old Singer narrow hemmer foot.  

So how could I suddenly get this result after years of failed attempts?  What did I do different?  I didn't do anything different.  But there is a difference.  Look at these three feet - they are not exactly alike!
Teensy tiny differences, but apparently it makes a big difference.  If one of these isn't working for you maybe just try another one.

At this point I want to beat my head against a wall for all the hours of frustration trying to make that elusive perfect hem only to try another foot and nail it the first time.  Sigh....

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vintage Fabrics, a couple of finds...

The ultimate vintage sewing experience?  Sewing vintage fabrics on my Singers and of course using all those nifty Singer attachments which make it so much fun.  (I'll show those later - each and every one.)  But first a couple of recent fabric finds.   

How absolutely gorgeous is this?  Scrounging around in an antique store recently I came upon a basket stuffed with odds and ends of old linens.  I picked up this piece which was sewn into what looked like a huge pillow case (?).  Bought it for $3.  Unpicked the seams, washed and ironed it, and I have 1-5/8 yds of beautiful chintz fabric.  It hasn't told me what it wants to be yet, but I love just looking at it.  

Then the other day at an Estate Sale I came across this piece which I bought for $1.50.  A very lightweight cotton in a dainty, delicate print.  It needs to be made into a darling little dress of some kind.  

UPDATE:  Sunsuit I made for a sweet baby girl with this fabric!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Introducing My Machines, Singer 221 Featherweight

And the little sister of the bunch who needs no introduction.  This is absolutely one of the most sought after sewing machines of all time.

Even in this 1940's Singer brochure they mention that it outsells any other model in the world.  I believe it!  Just look on eBay and see that everything Featherweight is still going strong.  It has almost (almost?) a cult following.

I can hardly add any information about the Singer 221 that hasn't already been explained in far more detail than I can offer.  These are just as much collector's items as they are fan-freaking-tastic little sewing machines. If you love sewing machines, if you love vintage, and most definitely if you love vintage Singers - then this machine is the Holy Grail.  

And here's the deal:  you can buy a 221 Featherweight in good working order for around $200 (a Special Edition or Model 222 for $100's more).  Yet look at the most basic soulless, plastic machine for sale at the big box stores.  The cheapest ones you can find run nearly $200 and those are utter garbage.  Why...I'm asking WHY...would anyone spend their allotted $200 sewing machine budget on a Bucket-O-Plastic rather than a real Singer Featherweight?   Beats the heck outta me.  But let's just call it our little secret 'cause that leaves more Featherweights for those who really know what they're I right?  ;)

Introducing My Machines, the Singer 503 Rocketeer

This is the fun machine in the group.  And honestly, how cool is he? (For some reason, this machine is a "he," while the others are "she.")  I will confess at this point that he is exactly my age - let's just say that both of us were born during the Kennedy administration and leave it at that.  The Singer 503 shows it's Space Age influence in the Rocket Man styling.  If George Jetson's wife ("Jane, his wife!") had a sewing machine, it would surely be the Rocketeer.  

Compared to the straight stitch vintage Singers, the 503 Slant-o-Matic (along with its fraternal twin, the 500) is ultra modern.  Every gal needs a zig zag (more about that later) and that is his special talent.  He has Singer's innovative slant shank needle which means different feet and attachments for this guy.  He has such "State of the Art" features as twin needle stitching and 3 needle positions.  And instead of dropping the feed dogs, you can just switch that lever on the front and the throat plate raises up.  

He has the works - all the original feet plus a few specialty feet, like the overcast foot and blind stitch foot, and even his own slant shank buttonholer.  Best of all is the collection of top hat cams for decorative stitches - 21 in all.  Unlike the Singer 500, the 503 does not have a camstack so you get the hands on satisfaction of manually inserting a cam for each pattern stitch.   Call me weird, but I prefer it (no camstack to freeze up, for one thing.)  

This Slant-o-Matic has a few issues and is not a good top stitcher, for example (more on that later).  But he gets his turn at bat on a regular basis whenever deco or zig zag stitching is needed.  

Introducing my Machines, the Singer 15-91

This is my Singer 15-91 in the classic Queen Anne #40 cabinet.  This machine has a long history with me.  She used to live here: 

Yes, for many years my 15-91 lived in a humble carrying case.  Not that she was exactly portable, weighing in at a hefty 27 lbs or so.  But she was easy to tuck away in a closet when not being used.  However, she has been used a lot.   

This Singer was born in 1954 and came home with her first owner, my Mom, that year.  (Clue...I was not born until a number of years later!)  My Mom made most of my clothes on it when I was growing up.  Starting at about age 9, I began learning to sew on it (to me, at the time, it was a big, scary thing!)

This machine has resided with me for the last 30 years and did every bit of my sewing until about a year ago when several more members of the Vintage Singer family joined the family.  She is now enjoying a well deserved rest - or possibly she is jealous of all the attention I give to the newcomers!  But she never lets on if she is miffed and continues to sew like a champ whenever I take her out to play.

The Singer 15-91 was considered the Tailor's Machine in it's day compared to the 201 which was the Dressmaker's machine.   The main difference between them is the 15-91's oscillating hook and vertical bobbin vs. the 201's rotary hook and horizontal drop in bobbin.  The rotary hook does deliver a smoother operation and (supposedly) sews faster.  The 15-91 is one kicking sewing machine - but the 201 is the smooth big sister.      

Introducing My Machines - The Singer 201-2

Introducing my Singer Family, I'll start with my Singer 201-2, living in a Singer #40 Cabinet.  (Circa late 40s - mid 50s.)

I obtained this machine recently, and all I can say is that she sews stitches so beautiful it will make you weep.  Smooth and quiet too.  Surely one of the best straight stitching machines ever made, the elegant 201 is truly the Queen of home sewing machines from this era.