Readers, as you can see, I now have my Pfaff 30 here at home in its original table. I am so into this machine. We have an incredible physical connection.
But it's not perfect.
And friends, this is where I need your help. You know how you've helped me get past some of my former obsessions, like fitting my self-drafted bodice and living with the natural drape of my wool melton toggle coat? Well now I need to learn how to live with a vintage sewing machine that isn't quite at its physical peak though definitely possessing all the potential to get there.
The belt, one of those stretchy tube-like ones, while still basically intact, could probably be replaced. I can do that easily.
Tinkering with belts of late, I have learned to my surprise that belts often do better looser rather than tighter, as a tight belt can strain the motor. That adjustment definitely helped in the case of the Pfaff 30.
BTW, have I showed you my knee pedal? I love not having to deal with one more pedal on the floor. When I first attached it it seemed oddly high until I remembered that that lever part swings down. Duh. (I was like, Did women sew in high heels or something so their knees were up higher...?)
Then there's the subject of cleaning. OK, here's the deal: while I am willing to douse my sewing machines with enough sewing machine oil to give them acne, I draw the line at kerosene. Those inclined toward the mechanical -- Debbie, Susan -- certainly know about kerosene. It's sort of like gasoline, and in some parts of the world is used as a fuel source, and it's supposed to be incredibly effective at dissolving old grease, unsticking frozen gears, and killing head lice (I'm not kidding). But its smell is easily absorbed into just about everything and once you have that smell in your house, fuggitabout it -- you have to move.
Now I do have a balcony where I could work but right now it's covered with about ten inches of snow and it's freezing outside. I actually do own a liter of kerosene -- it was recommended in my old Elna Grasshopper instruction manual to use as a lubricant -- which has been sitting on a shelf on the balcony; it's recommended you don't even store the stuff in your house.
Even the plastic container the kerosene comes in stinks -- think gas station mixed with bus exhaust -- and I just don't want to deal with it. I've read about people soaking entire machine heads in kerosene to thoroughly clean them, but honestly, where do they do this? Certainly not in their living room.
Frankly, while all my machines could benefit from this sort of cleaning, is it necessary? When I turn the hand wheels of my Singers, they feel wonderfully free; the Pfaff, a little bit less so. I've oiled and wiped and oiled again and I think the more I sew on the machine the more things will loosen up -- this was definitely the case for my Singer 15-91 which, as you may recall from my 15-91 video, arrived a little noisy and stiff and now runs like a thoroughbred, even though I never did more than oil it (with plain old Singer sewing machine oil).
I have to remind myself that these machines are here to serve me in my sewing and not me to serve them, though obviously I want to keep my tools in good shape. I like when vintage machines need a little TLC and it's a great feeling to bring an old machine back to working life, as I did with my Singer 66 treadle.
But they -- like my sewing projects -- don't have to be perfect, right?
I'm also thinking of buying a wire sealant for the old wires in my Singer 15-91 and not replacing all of them right now. For one thing, as I mentioned the other day, the clutch release wheel is stuck. It's going to take kerosene to break that down, and I can't rewire the motor without removing the hand wheel (I don't think). I'll likely replace the light, where the wire deterioration is most evident, with the light that came with my 15-90. Or not, I don't know.
Friends of an obsessive bent, how do you deal with these moments of compulsive tinkering, be it on a sewing project or maintaining a vintage sewing machine? Is it best to just go for a swim, clean out a closet, make soup -- anything that takes you away from the obsession du jour?
I think this is why people buy brand new sewing machines. When they break -- and they will -- you can just throw them away and buy another one. You can't soak a plastic Brother LS2125 in kerosene, that's for sure.
Guys, I need good tips and I need them soon, before I start preparing my kerosene cocktail. (Won't a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar work just as well? Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda?)
In closing, do you ever experience sewing obsession? Do you fuss over invisible zippers that are ever-so-slightly visible? Do you pick lint out from under your throat plate after every project? Do you pre-shrink your thread?
Where does it end and why is it worse around the holidays?! Your wise counsel, please.
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns. I also sew for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!