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 503, 401, 301 etc.

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!  And the keyhole!  How many domestic machines can do that? 

Then there is the ubiquitous "fun factor".  Well at least for me, I love using the big, clunky, mechanical attachments.  These Are So Cool!  They aren't electronic, 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....and so on.

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)

So this concludes today's Fun With Buttonholers.  I have all the templates for any size buttonhole I've ever wanted to make.  I even have the eyelet template, but only a black plastic reproduction since the original is quite expensive and hard to find (it's on my "Look Out" list!)

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

Monday, July 23, 2012

A New Toy For My Rocketeer - The Singer Monogrammer

Well my 503 got a new toy this week, the Singer Monogrammer for slant shank, zig zag machines.   It is one of those gadgets I see on eBay for $10 and I've just gotta have it.  (More about those later...some I've turned around and sold again after I satisfied my curiosity.)

This is the monogrammer, which fits onto the machine just like the automatic buttonholer, and works in a similar way.

But there is a caveat:  You have to have this feed cover plate in order for it to work properly and it does NOT come with the monogrammer and they are actually hard to locate.  I got this one for almost nothing in a box of Singer attachments I bought at a yard sale.  One of those things I just happened to need and just happened to find!

You would assume that raising the throat plate to bypass the feed dogs (which is how its done on this this machine) would be sufficient.  While that works fine with the buttonholer, it just doesn't work with the monogrammer.

Maybe everyone else already knows this, but I am late to the party and just only recently figured out that common freezer paper, about $3.00 a box, makes great and inexpensive stabilizer for embroidery

(Apparently quilters already know this trick, but I don't quilt so that explains it.)  And while you're at it, you can take your fabric ironed onto the freezer paper and put it right through your inkjet printer to print anything you want right on the fabric - no iron on transfers needed.  How cool is that?  :)

Iron the plastic coated side onto your fabric.  Even with this very delicate linen, it peels right off without damaging the fabric.  

Use the letter placement guide to find the exact spot to start stitching

And start stitching!

The letters are only 1/2" so it really isn't suitable for anything other than maybe collars, cuffs, handkerchiefs or an eyeglass case.  Stay tuned for the Singer DELUXE Monogrammer which makes letters about 1-1/2" high and is better for towels, handbags, jackets, and other larger projects.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Welcome to the Singer Chop Shop

Here is the carcass of a plucked and dissected Singer 15-91 sewing machine.  She is awaiting a proper funeral which will probably entail a trip to a scrap metal recycling facility.  She surely led a very productive life, sewing beautifully for many years.  Unfortunately for her, she just wasn't worth my time/effort to receive the full restoration process.  I'd have to do something with the wiring which is NOT my forte.  I can jury-rig the job more or less, but the machine would have to have some value for me to even bother.  It also had a few other minor issues, plus it needed a new power cord and controller.  It isn't worthy my time or expense to end up selling it for $50 so I decided to part this one out and see what happens.  Call it an experiment, but I have wanted to do a Chop Job on one of these machines for a while now and this is the one.  She is now officially an organ donor!  To wit:

UPDATE:  Yes, every single part shown here was sold!  A modest profit, I brought in about $75 total.  But not bad considering that the entire machine in good working order would barely bring that much.  And piecing this out was actually kind of fun and educational.  I got to google those tiny little Simanco numbers to find out a part is called a "shuttle race hook ring clamp" or whatever.  And I found out that no matter how obscure the part, there is somebody who wants it.  Now some other machines with some service left to give will get the new parts they need and go on to sew again.  :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vintage Hankies and Vintage Knees

I love vintage linens that evoke a time when simple beauty was treasured.  Ladies hankies from the bygone eras are perfect little samples of quaint prints, lace, embroidery or other embellishments.  

I especially love the bright floral prints!

This one was a plain linen hemstitched hankie on which I crocheted my own border.  This took a size 14 crochet hook and size 80 tatting thread.  A little hard on my "vintage" eyes!

Yes, I crocheted this border myself!

There will be no picture, however, of my vintage knees.  One of these knees in particular is keeping me awake at night reminding me that I shouldn't continue to run (or the way things are going right now "attempt" to run).  Sadly body parts do NOT become more charming with age like the vintage machines or fabrics that I enjoy so much.  When body parts get old they're OLD.  We're just not built to keep working for decades, good as new, like those marvelous vintage Singers!

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.  


It sounds a little noisier than usual because of vibration from the table it's sitting on.  But 24 hours ago this was a sad, 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, so it looks like a machine with leprosy.  But it is now ready for a new home where someone will just want to sew with him rather than enter it in a beauty contest.   Its back on Craigslist....we'll see what happens....

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.  :)