Archive for the ‘Sewing Machines & Accessories’ Category

When I was taking care of an older relative a few years ago, I thought the time might come when I would need to stay overnight, so maybe it would be a good idea to have a sewing machine over there to give me something to do during the down times.  I found a nice Singer 404 in a thrift shop in Petaluma for only $35, with a cabinet.  That is a lovely solid metal machine:

DSC00991-001Well, now it is several years later and my sister mentioned wanting a vintage machine, so, since I already have a 301A that is very similar, I gave this one to her.  She lives upstate, so we had a lovely drive up there to take her the machine.  She has much more room for a machine in a cabinet than I have.

I have been thinking about my machines and how I really don’t know how they work, and every time something goes wrong I have to take them into the shop.  Around here the rate for a visit to the shop is at least $130.  That can put a dent in your budget very quickly.  I decided to learn a little more about my machines and how to do proper maintenance, including what lubricants and oils to use where.  I got a book about fixing vintage machines and looked up information on the internet.  I was especially interested in the Singer 401A information because I have one with a frozen cam stack with a cam stuck in it.  I learned that Tri-Flow is what professionals use:

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This is used in places your manual tells you to use sewing machine oil.

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This is used on gears and places where your manual tells you to use lubricant instead of oil.

So I tackled my first sewing machine fix.  I used the Tri-Flow, a hair dryer, and followed the advice of an excellent video I watched (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdaWx1gGZWg), and hurray, I got the stuck cam out, managed to get the stitch selectors working again, and all in all, felt proud of myself.

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I am using cotton-covered polyester thread to sew the shirts, and the buttonholes in this thread were not the best.  The stitching on the right-hand side of the buttonhole was a lot looser than the left side and sometimes the center space was way too small.


When I looked at a commercially-made shirt, it looked like they were using a much thinner thread.  I decided to try some Maxi-Lock thread in both the bobbin and top threading but using the same needle and buttonhole foot.  Here’s the buttonhole produced:


Much better!

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I usually go to the thrift store in Sebastopol every two months or so, and today I hit the jackpot.  Not only did I find some new cones of Maxi-lock thread, some 6000-yard cones of Dual Duty thread (for 75 cents each), but I found this in brand new condition:

I’ve heard a lot about this book, about how great a reference it is, but it is out of print except for the e-book form sold by Taunton Press, and the books for sale online range from $40 to $150.  I was delighted to see it on the shelf at the thrift store.  I paid about $1 for it.

I also got a really old Singer 121795 black buttonholer that will be fun to try out.  The manual was easily found online.

On the way home, though, I was headed down a pretty two-lane country road that carries quite a bit of traffic on weekdays.  There was a huge truck in front of me and a police car behind me.  The traffic was moving along under the speed limit.  All of a sudden, the cop lights came on and he signaled me to pull over.  “Oh, no!!” I thought.  I wondered what on earth I could have done wrong.  Traffic tickets in this area are extremely, horribly expensive.  I pulled over as soon as I found a spot, and a miracle occurred as the police car sped past me and pulled over the truck.  He just wanted me out of his way.  Hallelujah!  That could have been a very expensive trip to the thrift store.

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I got within three robots of being finished when the poor little machine developed a glitch and had to go into the shop.  Luckily, I’m still on the three month warranty, but unluckily, the fixer man just went on a two-week vacation.  So I am waiting.  Right now I am sewing more stuff for the church sale but am thinking of what I really want to be sewing.  I just have a few more items to finish up and then back into sewing for myself and the girls.

Also have to start the seeds and set up the little greenhouse.  The rainy season is a bit lengthy this year, and the nights are still cold.

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Buttonhole stitch can give a really nice rustic or ethnic feel to a garment and is often seen on Mexican blouses around the neckline and bottom of the yoke and sleeves.  I usually stitch it by hand, but I have noticed that several of my sewing machines have a machine buttonhole stitch.  Since right now I have the old Elna SU set up, I looked up in the manual to see if any of the cam designs would work for this.  Over the years I have managed to get a lot of cams for this machine and keep them in a box near the sewing machine.  This time I decided to use Cam # 150.  It was certainly fast to do the stitching by machine, though a little tricky over all the layers of the yoke, and I did rip sections of it out several times before I figured it out.  The best part is that I could use the same thread as in the embroidery so it matches.

Above is a close-up view of the stitching along the side of the yoke. To make the top (outside) portion of the stitch more prominent, I put a row of straight stitch over it after the buttonhole stitch was finished.

Now that the buttonhole stitching is done, it is time for the neck binding, then the side seams and armhole binding.

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The little embroidery machine is out of the shop and back home.  The problem was with the thread sensor, apparently.  I tried it out this morning and it seems to be fine:

My camera is still going crazy, though.  At least I can get a few pictures out of it while scraping up the $$ for a new one.  It keeps switching to video mode and uses up the battery charge quickly.  I have had it for 6 or 7 years, which I guess is extreme old age for a tech gadget.

I made my usual trip to Sebastopol a week or so ago and came back with lots of vintage needlecraft pamphlets and a few vintage patterns.

This pattern above might make an OK house dress and dates to the 70’s. The dress shown below is either ugly or not too bad depending on the fabric choice.  I’ll have to think about it.

My mom had a pattern like this (now in my collection somewhere) and I always wanted to sew a textured corduroy pillow or pillows.  The small wale fabric looks pretty smocked or tufted but haven’t seen it quilted before, and that looks great, too.

This one dates back to the 20’s so is in very good shape considering its age.

Still no action on the serger front, but I hope to tackle that machine soon.  Yesterday I was making a huge cake for the spouse’s office for Valentine’s Day and covering it with some heart and glitter sprinkles I got from the seasonal section at the Walmart.  I often make treats for the office staff, especially during tax season.

Still haven’t started a new sewing project yet because I’ve been tracing patterns, but maybe today is the day.

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I was looking over the broken Professional Buttonholer I picked up at the Legacy Thrift store when M and I went there last week, and though I only bought it for the slant-machine cover plate, I still regretted that it wouldn’t work any more. It had all of the templates and one extra, and somehow, twenty templates just makes you want to try them all out. Most of the older buttonholers had 5 templates, so 20 is very luxurious. It made regular buttonholes, eyelet-ended buttonholes, and the retangular stitching part of bound buttonholes. Anyway, on Saturday I went to Martinez to walk around in the morning because the spouse was helping out at the opening of the new Nut Creek library, and I stopped in at my favorite antique store. I was looking through the sewing items, and there on the floor I spotted the boxed Professional Buttonholer set! I have never seen a buttonholer in that store before, so I guess it was just my lucky day.It works fine, and now I have another 20 templates:
Most importantly, it had the manual so that I could see how you are supposed to install the cover plate on the machine.

After this happy find, I went to the shop next door and found this:

It’s a little blue tin with sewing accessories in it. When I got home, I looked over the sewing machine feet included, and found that most of them will fit my low-shank machines.

I can figure out what most of them are, but the big one on the left is a little puzzling. Is it a zipper foot and if so, why the arm like the ones seen on quilting feet? It adjusts so that you can sew on either side of the foot.

A buttonhole cutter! I have seen pictures of those in books but have never seen one before in real life. These feet are not Singer parts because the part number is not on them, and some say ‘Swiss Made’.

When I was not out spending the last of my birthday money, I was cutting out another skirt for A, this time in a light blue denim that was in the stash cupboard. I also found two shirts I was making for myself years ago, and set aside for reasons that had to do more with procrastination than anything else. One camp shirt just needs buttons and hems, so I will finish that off. The other is a nice white blouse that has been waiting for its buttonholes for years. Now that I have all these new-to-me vintage buttonholers from the thrift shop, I have no excuses not to finish it up.

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My daughter, M, and I decided to drive up to the Petaluma area, mostly because there is a Super Walmart near Mare Island that M loves, since it is right next to a Sonic, which she has missed since she moved back from Texas. We decided to save our Sonic visit until we were on the way home, and went to visit our favorite thrift shop and the yarn shop nearby. I took along a bag of craft stuff to donate to the thrift shop, and since we were without the spouse, who, of course, is bored in crafty stores, I had time to look through all the old sewing machine attachments. Here’s what I found that fits my machines:

The nicknamed ‘Jetsons’ buttonholer for slant shank machines! Here’s the actual buttonholer:

What I really wanted to find was the cover plate for the slant shank machines to cover the feed dogs so you can use the buttonholers. Before we went up there, I looked at different sites on the internet and printed off a list of part numbers for my machines so I would know what I was looking at. This helped a lot.

I ended up also buying a boxed Professional Buttonholer even though it was obviously not working, because the box contained the cover plate I was looking for. Of course, this was a thrift store, so the whole box was only a few dollars, so it was a win all around. I also found the AK3 plate for straight stitching. I love the control you get with the tiny opening for the needle, and this prevents delicate fabrics from being pulled down into the machine. Also in the box with the AK3 were several feet, including the specialty foot for satin stitch and the seam guide.

Here’s a buttonhole worked with one of my old buttonholers so that you can see how much better looking they are than a bartack buttonhole. They have an elongated oval shape instead of thick wide zigzag bartacks at the ends.

My favorite find, though, was in a box marked ‘Kenmore’. It had the same zigzag and straight stitch feet that I have on my old machine, except that mine are all pocked and scratched from several decades of use, and these were in brand new condition. There were several other low shank feet in the box that fit several of my machines.

I was really pleased at how I managed to find just what I was looking for, and so cheap, too. I also got an old Simplicity sewing booklet from 1950 or thereabouts and a lovely old French embroidery pamphlet. My total bill was around $20. My husband was pleased that I donated more stuff than I came home with, so it was a net loss for the stash. Always a plus.

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