Sunday, March 18, 2018

Stretch Stitching on Singer Slant-O-Matic

In response to some buzz on a VSSM group, I dug out my stretch stitching equipment for my 401 and tested it out.  I don't sew stretch knits very often, but I am prepared!

The fabric I used for the experiment was this.  Slinky and drapey, and with a substantial one-way stretch (from 10" to 15").

The machine I used was my 401, of course.

And the stretch stitching "equipment" is this:

Now, I don't have this cute little plastic case for mine, I bought the foot and cam separately.  If you're looking for the same thing, it is the #22 cam (which looks like an inverted #8) and an overedge foot.  That's all it is!  (This same combo is great for finishing seams with a real overedge stitch that looks almost like serging.)

I used a Schmetz stretch needle and Guttermann 100% polyester thread.  And here are the results.  This stitched perfectly, no skipped stitches, no puckering, and I can stretch the seam without breaking any stitches.

This is how the stitch looks

Here is the front side

So there you go!  Some more gadgets to find for your Singer Slant-O-Matic!

Now for hemming that stretchy knit.  My new best friend is Wonder Tape.  You don't want to try to press up or pin up this hem, but of course you want it to stay in place without shifting.  So you use this helpful product.

Tape it down with the bottom edge where you want your hem to be.

 Then you peel the paper backing off

and turn up your hem and press it into place

Now stitch with a twin needle and very light upper tension.  For best results, use a backing like tear-away or wash-away stabilizer, or even tissue paper like I'm using here.

I did NOT have a stretch twin needle, just a universal.  Results might be even better with a stretch needle, though.  Anyway, between the Wonder Tape and the paper backing, there was no shifting or puckering of the fabric.

PS... yours truly just remembered that the 401 takes two separate needles, so if you don't have a stretch twin needle you can use two stretch needles in there instead.  Duh!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Fun with Singer Bias Cutter and Bias Binder

Here are a couple of really cool gadgets from the Singer Tool Box.  Top is the bias binder, and below its the bias gauge cutter.

Now imagine it is 1955, and we are going to cut and apply a bias edging.  First we have to cut the bias strips 15/16" to fit the binder attachment and we do it with this little device.

Before I go any further - Yes, I know there is a method where you can cut continuous bias strips after marking cutting lines and making a couple of seams in a bias cut piece of fabric.  I do that myself sometimes.  But for the fun of it, let's just assume we only need a short bias strip so we're going to cut and seam it the old-fashioned way.

First I'll mark off my first bias line, and cut it.

(And yes, I "cheated" and used the rotary cutter for the first line.)

Now I don't have to mark off any more lines to get perfectly even strips.  I just attach this gizmo to the tip of my scissors and cut.

That little square next to the B is where you set the gauge for how wide you want your strips to be.
F = facing,  B = binding, C = cording.  I have it on B to get the required 15/16" inch strips that work in the binding attachment.

You attach it to the tip of your scissors as shown above, then you insert the edge of the fabric in the slot and start cutting - the strips come out perfect!

(If you have a good eye, you'll see I had the gauge set a tad past the B so my strip is a full inch wide. Oops!)

To seam, line up your strips this way.  Then press the seam open and cut off the little points.

So now you put your strip into the largest slot on your bias binder, then attach it to the machine. (It is easier to do it that way.) Feed the edge of your fabric into the slot between folds and sew.

The binding attachment folds and sews it on in one step!

How cool is that?

A Guide to Some of the Most Popular Vintage Singer Sewing Machines PART II - The Slant-O-Matics

CONTINUED FROM PART I - The Classic Blacks.

Introduced by the revolutionary new slant shank 301 came the parade of Slant-O-Matics in the early 1960s.  Low shanks were still made at the same time (the Style-O-Matic and Fashion Mate lines, for example) but the Slant-O-Matics were Top of the Line and are the ones most people are interested in obtaining today.  With one exception, these were zigzag machines.

Singer 404 Slant-O-Matic

Singer 403 Slant-O-Matic

Singer 401 Slant-O-Matic

Singer 503 Rocketeer

Singer 500 Rocketeer

NOTE:  All the Slant-O-Matics shown here (except the 404) use top hat cams which are interchangeable.  There are 23 total that work on these machine numbered #0-#22.  Usually 6-8 of them came with the machines when new and may or may not be included with a used machine.   These, for example, are sold separately.

#22, stretch or overcast
#17, curlicue

You can often find a set of these on eBay that come in a box like this (for a 600 machine.)


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Singer 237 Fashion Mate

(NOTE: I have edited this post to add this photo of the machine with a new face plate I bought on eBay.  Looks SO much better, like a brand new machine!  You will see how it original looked below.)

I found this in a thrift store today, cabinet included, for $25.
Singer 237 Fashion Mate

The machine didn't look great, and a quick test on site showed the wheel turned only grudgingly and the levers didn't move.  Not at all.  Not even a little bit.

Of course I generally don't care whether a sewing machine works because if it's an old Singer I can almost always get it working.  If not, I could at least get my money back on the cabinet since I know a couple of people who would buy it from me.

This machine has a belt drive, and a vertical oscillating hook, which is very odd in that the bobbin and needle thread the opposite of what you'd find in a 15-91 (also a vertical oscillating hook.)  The needle threads left to right and the bobbin goes into the case with the thread coming under, not over.  I believe this is an older version of the 237 since it has no feed dog drop.  Actually it has very few features.  What we have is:

  • Straight stitch
  • Zigzag with four stitch widths
  • Three needle positions

That's it!  I suppose since it's low shank, you can always slap an automatic zigzagger on there if you need decorative stitches.  It didn't come with any attachments, but hey - guess who collects attachments and just happens to have an extra set for it?  

So back to those levers...

You have here the needle position lever and the stitch width lever.  They were completely seized up,  and the machine wouldn't sew more than a slow, creaky straight stitch (it wouldn't zigzag at all.) I'm sure somebody gave this machine to the thrift store because it "didn't work" and the thrift store sold it for $24 for the same reason.  But it DOES work!  Here it is straight stitching and zigzagging:

I'm not going to lie, this took some time and patience.  The machine wasn't really dirty except for being extremely dusty.  There was no thread lint in it (just lots of dust) and no greasy build-up.  It was dry as a bone and actually looked like it had never been oiled.

I already closed it back up, so I won't show all the gory details, but I spent a couple of hours with a syringe full of oil and a hair dryer and a lot of patience before I got this running.  And here's the verdict:  it's a pretty decent machine.  It actually makes a surprisingly nice zigzag stitch.

Between the oscillating hook and the belt drive, this isn't going to be your "whiz-bang" sewing machine.  But it's a sturdy machine with the vertical bobbin (which I like) and a pretty good little stitcher. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Singer Hemstitcher

The Singer Hemstitcher is a fairly complicated little gadget that I never had much luck using in the past.  However, after some recent online chatter on the subject,  I decided to take it out and give it another shot.

I am using the attachment on my 15-91.  It only comes in a low shank, I guess they had abandoned the whole idea of it once the slant shanks came along!

The important thing to know is that this takes a very specific feed cover plate (NOT a normal feed cover plate.)  This one has to accommodate the piercer.  There are several different plates for the different Singer models.  The one for the 15-91/201 seems to be the one most commonly found.  The one for the Featherweight is almost impossible to find and cost upwards of $100 or more - just for the throat plate itself!

In case you want to know which is which, these are the part numbers (stamped on the back) for the throat plates for each of the machines. 

So, like I said, I decided to give it another shot and I got pretty good results this time.
This is the front side of the work.  I used contrasting thread for clarity, but classic hemstitching is usually white on white.  (You can just clip the occasional fabric threads that get caught in the holes.)

This is the back side.  I used regular iron on interfacing since this was just a sample.  I'd use tear away stabilizer for the real thing.

So this didn't turn out too badly!  But there are a few tricks to it:

1.  Fabric preparation.  You need to use a woven fabric with a medium weave.  Too loose or too close of a weave and you won't get the nice, defined holes you're after.  Originally tarlatan was used as a backing, but nowadays we have an array of stabilizers.  If the hemstitching will be done on a double thickness of fabric, you're good.  Just insert a lightweight interfacing in between.  If it is done on a single thickness and both sides will show, you'll want to use a stabilizer you can remove.  A tear-away or wash-away should work for this.

2.  You have to be able to sew slowly.  The way this works, you sew the first line, in which the piercer makes a hole while the needle makes a zigzag stitch next to it. You can stitch fairly fast here if you want.  But the tricky part is when you turn the work around and make a second pass.  Now the piercer goes back into the same holes while the needle makes a zigzag stitch on the other side.

Remember, to make this zigzag stitch the attachment moves the fabric back and forth.  You have to keep all this perfectly lined up while the fabric is moving.  This is the tricky part AND the key to pulling it off.  It takes practice, I won't lie!  

Here's my video showing how it's done.  I apologize in advance, I don't do great videos, but it is enough to give the general idea.

This might not inspire anyone to go out and spend $50 on a hemstitcher, but they often come with old Singer machines you might buy, so now you know what to do with one if you happen to get it.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

FAQs on Vintage Singers with Helpful Links


How do I  identify the model of my old Singer?

Go to this link and you will see a pictorial flow chart to help you identify what model you have:  Sandman Collectibles

How do I find out the age of my machine?

One of the best resources available is ISMACS.  To date your machine with the serial number go here: ISMACS serial number data base

Where can I find a manual for my old Singer?

Again, ISMACS has many free manual downloads.  (If you want an original manual, check eBay.)
ISMACS free sewing machine manual downloads.

Where can I get parts for my vintage machine?

There are lots of resources, but here are three I've used frequently.  They are all reputable dealers and carry most parts you will need to fix up your machine.  However, for parts like missing slide plates or face plates or any other ORIGINAL parts you need, go to eBay.  People part out machines all the time, and that is where you will find an original replacement (rather than a reproduction.)

Sew-Classic sewing machine parts.

T and T Repair - vintage Singer machines.

Sewing Parts Online.

What are these attachments, and how do I use them?

I have a post about most of the attachments in the LITTLE GREEN BOX.  Also, all the old manuals will illustrate and explain each one.  If you don't have a manual, there are free downloads available (see above.)

How do you use the Singer Automatic Buttonholer and which one is right for my machine?

I have a post about the SINGER BUTTONHOLER which explains slant shank versions versus low shank versions.  These are easy to find on eBay, and not too expensive.  If you have a vintage Singer, you really must get one of these!

What is the Automatic Zigzagger and how does it work? 

Check out my post on the SINGER ZIGZAGGER.  This is a gadget that will make zigzag stitches on your straight stitch machines and comes in both low shank and slant shank versions - they are available on eBay.

I'm looking for a vintage Singer, which is the best one for me?

I have a post covering some of the popular mid-century Singer models (15, 201, 221, 301, 400s/500s)  Of course there are many more, these are just some of the common ones you are likely to find.   A GUIDE TO SOME POPULAR VINTAGE SINGERS

What is My Machine Worth?
The one question I can't/won't answer is "how much is this machine worth?"  That is too subjective to give an answer, and it changes frequently according to popularity, supply and demand at any given time.  Look at eBay to see completed listings to get an idea.  Look at other sites like Craiglist to see what they're asking, but if the price seems very high, it probably is - asking price doesn't mean selling price! Whatever the machine is worth to you, that is the value of it. (Keep in mind, though, that your sentimental attachment to a machine doesn't add a monetary value to anybody else. It might be "worth" more to you because your grandma made your wedding dress on it, but that doesn't mean anything to a prospective buyer.)

More Questions?  Please let me know any other questions that I should cover here if you are a new vintage Singer owner.  And I may come back and add more as needed.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Guide to Some of the Most Popular Vintage Singer Sewing Machines - PART I, The Classic Blacks

This is my analysis of a handful of today's most sought after mid-century Singer models.  It is not a comprehensive list, there are many that aren't included here.  I am covering only the ones I have actually owned and sewn on myself - the exception being the 222, which I have never actually even seen! - therefore, the Pros and Cons are my personal opinion. (Also, some machines have more versions than what I show here.)

First I thought it might be helpful to explain some of the fundamental differences among these sewing machines. They break down as follows:

  • Two different shank types: low and slant
  • Three different bobbin types: Class 15, Class 66, Class 221
  • Three different hook configurations - which is a combination of hook type and orientation

Now we'll start with what I call the "Classic Blacks."  Here are three of the most popular models.

Singer 15-91

Singer 201-2

Singer 221

This brings us to the last of the Classic Blacks, and a completely unique machine.  To me, the 301 is the pinnacle of Singer machines. It ushered in a new era of completely re-engineered slant shank machines - this machine was revolutionary! - and at the same time the black model was the very last of the beautiful black machines with gold decals. This was a new era, and Singer wanted to modernize the look; the black machines were old school.  Therefore the 301 had the black & gold version (for those who still liked the traditional style) and two more color schemes in beige tones to update the look.  To this day it remains unique because it was the only machine that could be both a cabinet AND a portable model.  It has the vertical rotary hook like a Featherweight, and shares it's 221 bobbin, but the slant shanks that followed (known as the Slant-O-Matics) were horizontal rotaries with a Class 66 bobbin.  The 301 is truly one of a kind; it is the bridge between the models above (and many, many more of that era) and the ones that followed.  No machine ever made, however, could surpass it.  Dare I say it is perfect?

Singer 301

The beige and the LBOW (light beige/oyster white) 301s segued into the Slant-O-Matic color scheme...

NEXT..... Part II, the Slant-O-Matics  (Singer 400/500 Series)