Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Singer Buttonholer

If you have a vintage, straight stitch Singer, chances are you have a buttonholer attachment.  If you don't, then I suggest you SPRINT on over to eBay and get you one....hurry!  Don't pay more than $10, and be sure you get the right one for your machine.  The oval aqua case (above) and green treasure chest type case (below) are for low shank machines like the Featherweight, 201, 15-91, etc.   The oval pink case (above) and the red treasure chest (below) are for your slant shank machine like the 500/503, 401/403/404, 301 etc.  

(NOTE:  even with a zigzag machine like the Slant-O-Matics, you still set the machine on straight stitch for this attachment.)

The one below is much older, I think dates back to the 1930's or 1940's - for low shank.  It does not take cams, the size of the buttonhole is made by adjusting a screw.

So why do you want one of these if you have a machine with a built in buttonhole stitch?  This is why:

Perfect buttonholes!  Even keyholes. 

Then there is the "fun factor."  I love using the big, clunky, mechanical attachments. They aren't electronic so there is no computer chip telling it what size to make the buttonhole.  It's just good old fashioned mechanical ingenuity that is FAIL PROOF.  Insert the template and get the exact same buttonhole every time - 10 years later, 30 years later, 50 years later....

Here is the slant shank version of the buttonholer on my Singer 503.  Note that this is a zigzag machine but it is set on straight stitch to use this attachment and you must use a feed cover plate or disengage the feed dogs.

Here it is on another machine, this one is low shank

So this concludes today's Fun With Buttonholers.  Five metal templates are included with the attachment itself, and a set of four more are available, as well as an eyelet cam sold separately (ten sizes in all.)  I have all the templates for any size buttonhole I've ever wanted to make.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Featherweight Visitor, Just Passing Through + How To Make a Cover for the Featherweight Case

Got a little visitor in the sewing room and we are getting acquainted.  I found her on my usual treasure hunt through the CL listings.  She was buried in an ad for an Estate Sale - somewhere in the middle of a long list of items for sale was "vintage Singer 221"... easy to miss, but I caught it.  She sat at this Estate Sale, in full view of 100s of buyers, all weekend without being sold and I picked her up with my backup offer.  The asking price was fair enough but I got it for even less than that because the seller was ready to get rid of everything and move on.

She won't stay long but I'll enjoy playing with her until she sells.  Whenever I have time, I like to make at least one complete project on a machine before I re-sell it.  That way I work out any bugs, tensions issues, etc. and I feel confident when I tell someone it is in excellent working condition.   This machine was very clean and in perfect working order, so not much to do but oil and lube it.  The case has a few issues on the bottom which I need to work on.

So this little gal is going to get a new dress.  I got the idea that on eBay among dozens of other Featherweights she might pop out if she has a custom made cover for her case - a little added value on the listing.  I got started last night and had lots of fun doing machine appliqué with with my Rocketeer.  Here are the pieces cut out and appliquéd and ready to sew.  

I wonder if this is TOO bold and funky???  I wanted it kind of mod but not cutesy (I can't stand cutesy.)  I definitely had fun doing the appliqués which is a first time for me.  

The cover is finished, I am kind of pleased with it. 

UPDATE:  This sweet little machine has been re-homed to someone who had never sewn on a FW before - it was love at first sight!   The cover I sold separately on eBay.  

For the Featherweight Case Cover Pattern CLICK HERE

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another 201-2 Rescued from Neglect!

Singer 201, rescued from decades of neglect in a damp garage!

So this is my adventure for this week.  I saw this sad 201-2 on Craigslist, living in a wooden case of which only the top survived - the bottom totally disintegrated.  I forgot to get a before picture, but the condition of the case here gives a clue. I have bought, restored and sold maybe half a dozen machines for a small profit, but this one didn't show much promise.  I mainly picked it up because

1. It was only $25
2. I wanted to see if I could bring it back to life
3. Even if I couldn't restore it, working on it would be good practice and/or a good source of parts
4. It had the lovely scrolled plates!  

This was the most challenging machine I have worked on so far.  It had apparently passed many years of disuse in a rotting, mildewed case in a garage and was now was completely seized up; the motor ran but nothing moved.  The presser bar lever was stuck down and would not budge.  Just like a person, this machine wasn't "dead" as long as it's heart was beating - meaning that the motor worked. But that is ALL that worked. This machine was basically paralyzed by rust and lack of use.

(It always amuses me when the ads say that a machine "has hardly ever been used".  That is not necessarily a good thing.)

Anyway, I brought him home, got out my screwdrivers, and within an hour I had this:

Then I broke into the motor like this:

The first thing I did was insulate those bare wires like this:

DISCLAIMER:  Yes, I know this isn't how you're "supposed" to do it.  Yes, I know you're supposed to solder brand new wiring into the motor.  But electrical and soldering skills are simply not in my bag of tricks and I don't want to go there.  I used shrink tube wiring insulation and then wrapped tape around the seams.  Although this isn't the definitive way to deal with the wiring, it is the method that is within my skill set and the wiring is surely better off being insulated this way than by being hacked up and soldered by someone who doesn't know what they're doing.  (I don't expect anyone else to do it this way based on the way I do it, this is my own "make-do" method.)  

So moving along, I turned my attention to coaxing life out of this seized up machine.  Down here nothing was moving:

This is a process I've done a few times now and it involves oil and elbow grease.  Maybe I used too much oil, but again this is my method and it works for me.  I oil the usual suspects and then oil every joint, crack and place that moves.  Turn the wheel.  Turn it and turn it and turn it and turn what is happening...where does it seem to be stuck?  Where is it trying to break through?  It only takes one "stuck" spot to stop the entire operation.  It also takes patience and the mind of a lunatic to spend the better part of two hours trying to find out where a rusty 70 year old sewing machine is hung up.  But then there is that moment when it all breaks free and TA-DA you have a running machine.  I love that moment!  

Here is the deal with these machines: it is unlikely that anything in the works is actually "broken," and if it is, then it is mostly likely beyond my ability (or even my desire) to fix it.  I'm not a sewing machine mechanic - or any kind of mechanic, for that matter.  I just do whatever seems to work. These machines are a dime a dozen, so a truly inoperable one is destined to become a parts donor.   Since these are inexpensive machines to play around on, its a learning experience with not much to lose if I'm not successful.


Then there was the presser bar lever stuck down.  I got to have some fun in here working with that
But yes, I got it moving and now it works perfectly.  I had to work the pressure adjustment knob loose with a vise grip (it was turned all the way down and stuck tight), then I rubbed oil all around that spring until it finally "let go" and moved.   

After surgery, I "stitched him up" again.  That is the fun part, putting it all back together.  Putting together the tension assembly, reassembling feed dogs and bobbin hook, hooking up the wires to the pin block after crimping on new contacts (actually I hate that part)  Moment of truth, it all runs like a top.  

24 hours ago this was a neglected, non-working machine that somebody just wanted to get rid of. This machine still has cosmetic issues due to the clear coat eroding and leaving ugly patches, but it is now ready for a new home where someone will want to sew with it rather than enter it in a beauty contest.

UPDATE:  Less than 48 hours on Craigslist and sold!  Glad I was able to re-home this machine to someone who can really use it.  :)