Saturday, January 21, 2017

How to Blind Hem on a Straight Stitch Machine (Just for Kicks)

I will acknowledge is that it is unlikely that anyone (myself included) will ever actually do this.  I usually either blind stitch by hand or on my ZZ machine.  But part of the fun of using vintage straight-stitch Singers is exploring the ingenious methods they had for doing tasks that require a zigzag.

There is an attachment made specifically for blind hemming on a straight stitcher, and as far as I know, it is only available for low-shank machines. (ETA:  I recently found out that this actually does come in a slant shank version!)
Singer Blind Stitch Attachment for low shank straight stitch machines. 
Here it is blind stitching on my Featherweight.

Here's how it looks on the right side (with contrasting thread so you can see it.)

But just supposing I want to blind hem on one of my straight stitch slant shanks and I didn't have that attachment.  Then I'd reach for this:

This is a gadget Singer made to do zigzag and other decorative stitches on straight stitch machines.  Mostly those would have been low shank machines like the 15-91, 201, or 221.  The 301 and 404 are (as far as I'm aware) the only two straight stitch slant shanks, and there is a version of the Automatic Zigzagger for these machines which is harder to find, but not impossible.

This thing is HEAVY, it weighs almost a pound with the cam inserted!  This is the basic zigzag cam.

So getting ready to make my hem, the first thing I might do is finish the raw edge with a zigzag stitch.  This was done on that unwieldy gizmo shown above, and it did an acceptable job.

Now I'm ready to do the blind hem, and this is the cam that does it

Set it up to blind hem in the usual way.  I have adjusted the bight so that the zz will fall right on that left guideline on the foot.  I just keep the folded edge on that line while I'm stitching

Unlike a typical blind hem stitch that does several straight stitches followed by a left zigzag stitch, this one makes a half-circle between each zigzag.

And this is how it looks on the right side.
(same fabric, different lighting)

Yes, I have just made a blind hem on an old straight stitching sewing machine!  There is something kind of satisfying in knowing it can be done this way, even if you would never actually do it, right?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

That Little Green Box

I've always assumed that everyone was familiar with all the common feet that came in the little green box with old Singer machines.  I've used them all my life and never gave it a second thought.  But recently I've noticed people asking about these attachments as if they aren't familiar with them. And I've also noticed that some of the modern versions - like the ruffler foot - are rather pricey.  But if you have a low or slant shank sewing machine, you can use any of these vintage attachments.  They are dirt cheap - you can usually get an entire box of assorted attachments like this on eBay for about $20.  (Make sure you get the proper attachments - low or slant shank - for your machine.)

(DISCLAIMER:  I don't make great videos, these are from my iPhone. And I just did samples on various scraps of fabrics here, not real projects.  Don't judge!)

First up is the binder attachment.  Most of these have multiple slots for different widths of bias tape.

(Actually supposed to be in the second slot, my bad!)
I used 1/2" single fold bias tape.  I inserted it into the second largest slot which is easier to do BEFORE attaching it to the machine.

Slide your fabric in between the folded tape and sew.  Easy as that.

Even better, you can use unfolded bias strips of 15/16" that you make yourself.  You insert this into the largest slot, and it will fold and apply the strip all in one step:

How about that?

Next is the ruffler.  In spite of being the most intimidating looking of all the feet in your box, this one is actually one of the easiest to use.  And its kind of fun too. 
Those numbered notches indicate how many stitches will be made between each pleat. (The * setting is for doing straight stitch without removing the foot.)  You can adjust stitch length along with these settings to get the fullness you want.     

Here I have it set on 6, which means a pleat every six stitches.

Perfect pleats in seconds, and so easy to do.

A little faster this time, and on a different machine:

One of the trickier feet to master is the rolled hem foot.  But once you get the hang of it, it makes a beautiful, perfect hem.  Just keep in mind that the softer and lighter the fabric, the trickier it can be. For those fabrics, try lightly starching the edge to be hemmed to give it enough body to behave in the hemmer.
The trick is to finger press the hem a couple of inches before you start.  Take a couple of stitches, then lift the presser foot and wiggle your hem into the scroll, then lower it and stitch away.  

Once you get going, just make sure to feed the fabric evenly into the scroll so it doesn't turn under too much or too little.

  On a medium-weight woven fabric like this, the results are great. (And honestly, isn't the stitching just beautiful on the 404?)

Then there's the edgestitcher.  The simplest thing is does is stitch right on the edge of the fabric.  

If you're into heirloom sewing, you can use it to join two pieces of lace right on the very edge:

Right on the very edge -  with matching thread the join would be invisble

And you can use it to make French seams;

For a 5/8" seam allowance, sew the wrong sides together with a 3/8" seam, then trim to 1/8"

Turn wrong side out, with seam inside, and press 

 Tuck into the edgestitcher slot for 1/4" and sew the seam from the wrong side, enclosing the raw edges on the right side

There is your French seam from the right side and the wrong side. 

                 And of course the zipper foot is a common, every day foot and needs no explanation

There are a few more such as the adjustable hemmer, which I've never used (I just don't get it, honestly), and the shirring/gathering foot.  There is also the tucker, and a few other speciality feet which I will cover in another post.