Monday, May 21, 2018

Singer Stylist 457 - replaced the gear and ready to roll

I have been venturing out further from my original interest in the old black Singers of the 1940s-1950s.  First I branched out to the Slant-O-Matics of the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Then I starting coming across various late-1960s models that kind of bridge the gap between the classic all metal machines that last practically forever, and the machines with a more limited life span due to nylon gears and more plastic parts.

This one is right on the cusp - the Singer Stylist 457 from 1969.  For the most part, this is still a solid, metal machine, but it DOES have some nylon gears which are bound to deteriorate after a few decades of use.

Singer Stylist 457

Now, I didn't go out seeking this machine, but it just "found" me at a thrift store.  It was less than $20 and I knew before I bought it that it would almost certainly need new gears. Sure enough, before I even tried to run it, I opened it up and found this bad boy (on the right) lurking inside.  This is the top gear that turns the vertical shaft that drives the machine.

Gear on the right has crumbled to pieces, but it's worth replacing.

Happily, these gears are still available and only cost about $10 so I was able to replace it.  That's basically all it took to get this machine back in tip-top condition.  Of course I also had to time the hook after I was done, but that isn't as mysterious as it sounds and it worked out fine.  The stitches are actually pretty nice.

Nice stitching, can't complain.

All it does is straight, zigzag, and blind stitch, but for 99% of your sewing that's all you'll ever need.  It has three needle positions, so you can make your four-step buttonholes, and it takes a twin needle so you can hem your knits or even make a little decorative stitching.

In spite of being a rotary hook machine, this isn't the fastest or quietest machine I've ever used, but it gets the job done.  (Surprisingly, the 237 Fashion Mate, a cheaper machine in its day and with a vertical oscillating hook, runs smoother than this one.)

If you happen to come across one of these for under $50, it might be worth your while to pick it up even knowing that you'll most likely have to replace the top gear.  If you DIY, it's just $10 for the price of the gear and less than an hour of your time.

I don't need more sewing machines around the house, but it is kinda cool to be able to "rescue" them from a thrift store where people just chuck their old machines that no longer work.  Bringing them back to life so they can be used again is very rewarding.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Singer Automatic Zigzagger Stitch Patterns

I have covered the Automatic Zigzagger before, but since lots of people have been talking about it lately, I thought I'd show all the pattern stitches.  Anyone searching for info on these might like to see how they look, all stitched out.

To recap, there are four sets of four cams as follows:
  • Set #1 - RED cams that come with the zigzagger
  • Set #2 - RED or WHITE cams (they are the same patterns, but the later ones were painted white to differentiate them from the red Set #1)
  • Set #3 - BLUE cams
  • Set #4 - YELLOW cams

 The second stitch from the top isn't attractive, but it is useful as a blind stitch.  I show how it is used HERE.

So here you have it, all SIXTEEN different stitch patterns you can make with your Singer Automatic Zigzagger on any straight stitch sewing machine.  And they don't look half bad. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Pinking Attachment and Hemstitcher on Singer 237 - A Burning Question!

So a thought popped into my head the other day, and I had to follow up on it.  I recently acquired this Singer 237 Fashion Mate and debated whether to keep it.   One thing in its favor is that it is a low shank, while the machines I usually sew on - 301 and 401 - are slant shank.  I thought it'd be convenient to have around for using my low shank attachments.

(I do have a 15-90, retrofitted into a treadle, and a 221, but I rarely use either of those)

Then I wondered - would this work on those really old attachments like the Automatic Pinking Attachment and/or the Hemstitcher?

Let's see.  We'll start with the Pinking Attachment...

This attachment DOES work on the 237 with one modification:  you have to remove the face plate because it protrudes too far to allow you to attach the pinker.  It's not really a big deal (you have one screw to remove) and after that it works perfectly.

Well that is the good news!

Now for the hemstitcher.  As you can see in this previous post (Singer Hemstitcher) this attachment requires a special throat plate specific to each machine - it was designed for the 201, 15-90/91, 66/99, 221.  This was decades before the 237 came along, by which time the hemstitcher was "obsolete."  It wasn't designed to work on this machine.  But would it?

The throat plate is, after all, the same as the 15-91, and that is the crucial element.  And yes, it DOES fit this machine!  

The hemstitcher fits on this machine as well.

So far, so good.  Except not...

I'm here to report that this could work except for one teensy, but crucial detail.  Like the face plate that gets in the way of installing the pinking attachment, the needle thread guide impedes the hemstitcher from completing its movement and making a stitch.  It hits the attachment so the needle can't go all the way down.  Darn.


If you have a 237 and you have your heart set on hemstitching with it, I suppose it is possible to temporarily remove or reposition that thread guide.  I will confess that I did not even try to do it, because I don't want to hemstitch that badly.  It is tantalizing, though, to know that everything fits and it is only that one little piece standing in the way.  

I hope I've answered some burning questions for anyone who has been wondering if these attachments could be used on a 237.  At least now I know!

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 two-way stretch (about 50%.)

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 originally 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, the cabinet at least is worth what I paid for it because you can put a Slant-O-Matic in it.

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!  But since it's low shank, you can always slap an automatic zigzagger on there if you need decorative stitches. 

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, I didn't expect this to be a particularly fast or smooth running machine.  But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised; this machine is legit!  It is very basic, and I think sold for only $88 brand new, but this has all metal gears and the hook system is similar to the venerable 15-91.  If you want a very basic low shank zigzagger, this is a good choice, especially since you can pick these up for next to nothing.