Tag Archives: vintage sewing machines

Failures and fluff

I still haven’t gotten the hand-cranked Singer up to speed – I was waiting to order more cleaning/greasing supplies (and the blasted always forgotten spool pin) until I knew I didn’t need anything else…

Because another sewing machine came home with me.

There was a label on it that read: “works, needs new belt.”

I cleaned the case and the machine, picked out the motor belt and other belt that I thought I might need, and just before I placed my order, I figured I should plug it in…

The light works, the motor is blown.

But whatever – it was only $12, I didn’t need it, (and why didn’t I test it at the store like I usually do?) but I have it now, and perhaps I’ll try to replace the motor, or perhaps I’ll take it right back to ReStore – only with proper identification of its faults this time.  It’s also a bit young for my machine tastes, but it is the next version of my mom’s sewing machine, and it’s got a zigzag (I just have one machine that can do that now), and it actually dates to around the years of me, so there’s a bit of a nostalgia thing going – if I get it back up and running, perhaps I can go whole-hog authentic on my ’70s quilt (that I haven’t started yet).

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In a moment of frustration and brain failure a few weeks ago, I took a break to make a cheery pompom.

I thought I knew how to make pompoms, but like the sewing machine, some shit from the 70s doesn’t work anymore…

I’m not enamored/charmed/giggleful with them, and I certainly didn’t embrace their bombastic return a few years ago, but I have some thoughts on their usefulness now that may or may not come to fruition.

And I wouldn’t mind topping a hat with one, once in a while…

But a second try (and a video) brought success.

Now I just need to control myself from trimming them down to nothing…

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What Phil* had to say

It’s a bit disorienting to be in February and have only been through an extended mud season – mud from rain, not snow (except for a tiny bit). I don’t mind a mild winter per se, but the ticks haven’t died (have I already bitched about the ticks still hanging on – on the dog – this winter?) and I’m sure the garden’s not-frozen foes are planning their evil attacks…

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Go back to sleep! #january #itsnotspringyet

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But there is still ample time for a blizzard or two, so I’ll shut the hell up.

Thanks to N with his speedy PVC erection skills, we’re good to go with seed starting this year – just need the electrician to add a plug, and a few more supplies.

feb-grow

The signs of spring are urging us to eat up last summer’s bounty – we’ve barely touched the frozen veg, but we’re down to just one butternut, and the last of the juicy peak of season blueberries made their way into a pie.

None of my current knitting projects wrapped up by the end of January, so they’ll be finished when they are – soon, likely, for the socks, and I have to really force myself on the sweater – I need the needles from it though (to start another likely long-suffering, but less painful to knit sweater) so that might be the needed kick to the finish line.

I put the hand crank on the Singer red eye.

feb-crank

And it will hopefully be awesome – now, not so much – the machine is far more gummed up than I thought and the movement is sluggish (I think I last used it in 1999? and it’s been in and out of basements and storage units) – and I have to learn a bit more about disassembling parts and well-greasing and whatnot. “Fixing” old sewing machines for me has just been a good wipe down, oiling, and replacing a missing part or two, so it’s time I get a few more mechanical skills on that front – and at some point, I’d like to be able to restore the finish and whatnot, but maybe not – I want to use these machines, not look at them being pretty.

*as in Punxsutawney.

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Cranked

Just thinking I was nearing the finish line with a few long term projects by the end of January jinxed it… but I haven’t cast on anything new in the knitting department so at least my focus on finishing should carry over into February.

But I also started to act on a few other long term projects (and yes, that’s how I don’t get things done for ages).

I’ve been wanting to convert one of my old sewing machines (seen here and here) into a hand cranked one and finally acquired the supplies.

Now to chose which machine…

This Singer 66 hasn’t gotten much love or use even though it’s a beaut. It’s the one machine I think about selling or giving to a new sewer sometimes but when I get it out, I love it and want to keep it and I always forget about the huge set of attachments I’ve never used for it and oh boy will I have a ball with those attachments one day when I remember them and have time on my hands…

sewingmachines-singer

I thought this 99 was toast since it was missing a few things and I was afraid to plug it in, but it was my initial candidate since it is a bit lighter and smaller than the others and I have a fantasy about taking it with me on cabin vacations or out in the yard on a picnic table we don’t have, but it’s still no featherweight, and the crank adds on another pound or so… But it turns out, this machine just needed a good cleaning and a new bobbin slide plate, so it’s pretty sweet on its own and is currently in use in the basement near the serger.

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And this lovely old red-eye already has the spoked wheel that makes the hand crank possible (and dammit I forgot to order a new spool pin for it again!) but I’ve wanted to convert it back to a treadle for ages, but I still could eventually – the crank should be easy enough to install/deinstall.

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So I need to spend some quality time with the two 66s and chose the one with the worst motor I think, or perhaps I’m deciding on the red-eye as I type this…

Either way, there’s other work to be done at the moment…

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Meet (some of) my sewing machines…

I learned to sew (or rather I learned how to use a sewing machine) on my mother’s 1960s era Singer.  I made some shapeless elastic waist skirts, “Jams” style shorts, and a few odds and ends in my youth.  During college, I borrowed the machine to make hats to sell at raves.  You heard me, raves – and the real kind back in the day, illegal and last minute and fun as a bucket of monkeys.  I loved her machine – it was metal and solid and felt like well, a machine in the masculine sense.  A few years later I acquired my first vintage machine at my favorite thrift store for something like $6.99.

machines1I’ve had it for nearly 20 years and it is the machine I use most often, however I just had to put it on a time-out due to a tension issue that springs up after an unpredictable amount of time (sometimes after 3 days of use, sometimes after year or so) and it seems to always fix itself as long as I don’t use it for a month or so.

machines1-det

A partial repair tag still clings to the handle – perhaps this tension issue gave the previous owner troubles as well…  After finding this machine, I was on the lookout for more.  Why?  I think I figured it would be nice to have the same one to use for parts if need be, I wanted one with zigzag and other stitch functions, and I just really fell in love with solid things made of metal that could last lifetimes – yes, the plural form.  I hate everything about the objects of our disposable society these days, but then again, obsolete, near-obsolete, and old timey things weigh a ton and are a pain in the ass to move.  But after a few years, I had amassed a collection of around 15 sewing machines, not to mention several typewriters and boxes of cameras and film equipment.  I didn’t move much then and used much of the equipment as furniture in my cramped apartment, but eventually most of it had to go.  Since I used the sewing machines on a fairly regular basis, I kept a half dozen of them or so.

machines4This is the back-up machine for when the pink Atlas is being temperamental.  It too came from a thrift store and I gasped when I opened the box – I’d never seen one that looked so like an automobile of the same era and I loved the deep green.  It sews strongly and steadily but the needle needs to be coaxed into the fabric in just the right way each time that I tend to get a little impatient with it.  Its best use is for sewing long seams or quilting.

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This is the prettiest and the oldest of my current machines and it works just fine.  The bobbin is a little fiddly to work with so I don’t like to change it as often.  When I had more space (and when I will hopefully have more space again) I’d leave it set up with thread in the opposite color of what I was using in the other machine if I needed to hop on it for something else.  I believe this was originally a treadle machine and motorized later, so I have intentions of trying to turn this back into a manual machine, but I’d rather find a treadle machine for a reasonable price (and I could fit in my car or have delivered) instead.  It is also in a re-purposed Morse case that is annoyingly without a lid, so at the very least, I need a new lid/container for it.

machines3

machines3-det

My brother found this lovely Singer for me, but it’s probably been a decade ago…  I have it nearby because I intend to try to find a couple of missing parts for it, but haven’t done much searching around for them yet.  Ironically, it also came with the manual and a few extra tools, so someone was meticulous about keeping it all together only up to a certain point.  This one is also a more compact “portable” model, so it would be convenient to get it up and running as soon as possible.  I’m also slightly afraid to plug in anything old, so the first time I like to be prepared in case of an inferno.

And then I have perhaps two more?  I’m a little nervous that I can’t find them at the moment, but I believe that they could be in storage along with the other third of our stuff.  Hopefully I didn’t get rid of them in the frustration of the move.  One of them is another Atlas similar to my old stand-by that I found left in the trash on the curb in my old neighborhood.  Its cord was cut, perhaps indicating that the motor was blown or that it needs to be re-wired so I can use it for parts, or get it up and running again.  I believe the other machine is another Singer with a bad motor?

The machines I had but sold years ago included a couple of really old ones that had been motorized but weren’t very functional, I believe yet another Atlas, a less attractive 70s machine, and a blue White that I still can’t understand to this day why I got rid of it – it had a zigzag stitch, WTF?  But I think I thought I’d find another…

Some days I’m a little envious of others with the fancy-schmancy machines that will practically stitch up a cup of coffee or an offspring  but mostly I love my hunky metal beasts and will continue to do so…

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Quilts in my past – part I

Henry’s quilt.

My family used to be uniformly non-breeder (except for my parents of course) or maybe I should be kinder and call us child-free by choice.  We’re still largely so, but around nine years ago my oldest brother (and the one most irritated by the little buggers) surprised us all with a son, and then another.  This first child born into a family exclusively of adults caused quite a ruckus.  My parents soon became giddy this-child-is-perfect grandparents and I got an unexpected nesting/estrogen/crafty-auntie boost.  I made soft toys, a crib quilt, and later a twin-sized quilt.  I can’t find pictures of the crib quilt, and don’t even really remember it, but the twin-sized one is the last one I made in my old little apartment on the dining table.  It was made from cotton homespun purchased at a small town fabric shop and a few from the fabric big-box.  The quilting and binding was sloppy, but I had no room to properly lay it out and baste it, and I don’t like that step anyway, so I rushed it.  I have several vintage sewing machines, but this Atlas is my good old standby.

henry's quilt 1

henry's quilt 2

henry's quilt 3

I never took a picture of it when it was finished which is too bad, since I really liked the fabrics in this one, and I think I used them all up.  Funny thing about babies though, by the second one, I no longer had the motivation to make anything for him apart from a few simple knitted items which is sad?  But then again, I figured a crib quilt and toys and anything washable can be used over and over again….  But I do feel a little obligated to make a larger quilt for him sometimes, but my SIL now sews too so…

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