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Mar 20, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy



Readers, where does the time go?   It's nearly 4 pm and I haven't done half the things I'd intended to do today.  Do you make to-do lists?  If so, do you actually do the things on them?

I just got back from my neighbor Irma's apartment down the hall (that's Irma up top), where I helped her get her old sewing machine up and running again so she could alter her husband John's pants.
I am sometimes surprised how little people know about maintaining their own sewing machines and, frankly, it disturbs me.  Excitable Irma rang my bell this morning and showed me her snapped rubber belt, along with another she'd bought to replace it but which was the wrong size (you'd think people in sewing machine repair shops would know what belt a Singer 66 needs but apparently not).  I went over to take a look -- I was actually curious to see her machine -- and before I knew it I'd committed myself to picking up a new belt for her as well as a new bobbin winder tire, since hers looked like it hadn't been replaced since 1965, not that she even noticed.







Irma inherited the machine from her mother, and it must date back to the 1950s.  She hardly ever oils it, has no idea how to replace the belt or bobbin winder tire properly, and has never thought to remove the lint from under the feed dog plate.  In her defense, she doesn't sew that often anymore.

Helpful neighbor that I am, I found her the belt and new tire she needed (Singer sells them in pre-packaged sets these days, very cheaply, which they carry at the FIT bookstore), and after I installed it, I also oiled and delinted her machine.  I am happy to say it is stitching nicely once again, and I returned home carrying a big container full of Irma's delicious homemade rice pudding and half a papaya.  Works for me!







And speaking of sewing machines, look at what I saw at the flea market this weekend -- two old Singers in tables, totally encrusted with decades of dust.  One was definitely a 99, the other maybe a 15, I'm not sure.  I quickly ran in the other direction before I got seduced.







Instead, I bought a vintage Seventies Italian task lamp.  Hey, it's almost my birthday month.



On my way home from picking up the sewing machine belt today, I briefly popped in to the FIT museum and caught the fun, small Youthquake exhibit that runs there until April 7.  It doesn't warrant a trip all by itself, imo, but there's also the wonderful, enormous Impact: 50 Years of the CFDA (that's the Council of Fashion Designers of America) that's a must-see!  (The FIT museum is free, btw.)


Meanwhile, in pattern land, my "exotic" harem/Jeannie costume has arrived.  Could this be my next sewing project?





Actually, I could use a pair of pants, not to mention a few short-sleeve shirts since we're already having summer here despite it being March.

In other news, I went hiking again on Sunday and this time remembered to wear sunscreen.  







Today I'm also trying to talk myself out of buying a hand crank sewing machine, or rather, I'm trying to decide whether I should just buy a vintage hand crank and look for a cheap motorized 99 or 15 model I can convert myself.  So far I haven't seen anything in my price range on eBay, and I don't want to deal with a vibrating shuttle bobbin.  (Anybody have any experience with those?  What's the stitch quality like and is it a headache to wind the bobbin?)

OK, it's time to revisit that to-do list.

Happy Tuesday, everybody!  Is it practically summer where you live too?

33 comments:

  1. You are a saint! Remind me to be your neighbour next time I buy a place in NYC :-)

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  2. frankly, i'm impressed with all that you know about your sewing machines! Your blog has become a wonderful resource. and honestly where is all the sewing machine knowledge hiding?? Because I've looked on the internet... and I really haven't found much :( There are machine manuals for sale, and then there's Peter's blog. So how do you learn Peter? have you learned from friends and books and the old-fashioned diy way? Do you have any resources (especially online) that you can share?

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    1. If Singer's are your thing, check out Rain's blog "The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog" listed under "Other" on my blog roll. I've learned primarily by owning a lot of different mechanical machines and fiddling with them -- but I've never taken one apart and put it back together; that would be beyond me.

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  3. I also find you such a nice neighbour!

    Another day I was looking in the U.S. Ebay for some attachments and I have noticed how the prices for the hand cranks are high. I was shocked! Don't you think that you can do better business buying one in U.K? I think even with the shipping costs it could do a bargain there.

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  4. A vibrating shuttle machine is not all that different to use and maintain than a round bobbin machine. They are a little noisier and many are a little finicky about thread quality (they tend to prefer all cotton thread), but those are minor points. I have a 120 year old Singer VS3 handcrank that makes stitches that are as straight and smooth as any more "modern" machine. If you're going to look for a handcrank vibrating shuttle machine, you can't go wrong with Singer.
    Also, have you looked at the Treadle On website for info on converting an electric machine to a handcrank? Lots of info - treadleon.net.

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  5. I have 3 Singer toy machines. All are crank. All purchased after I read your article on sewing machies. I purchased also an Elna, a Featherwight, another old Singer, a new Singer, etc.

    I will give you - as in a gift - one of the toys. They really sew a nice little chain stitch. Would you like it? I'll add in a nice old French dress pattern to sweeten the deal.

    Interested?

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  6. Peter I'm in exactly the same state as you regarding a hand crank - I really want one, and even have a motor-less 66 that I designated as a conversion project.

    I don't think I want to deal with the VS machines, & my current thinking is that I want to find a nice 99 - I'm willing to convert it if I don't find a great deal.

    I don't have any experience with the VS's...Angie I appreciate your comments about the cotton thread, but I think I'd rather have the thread variety option.

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  7. Oh, and I say that being a good neighbor trumps crossing things off the To Do List any day! (yes, I'm a list-maker, and no, not everything on my list gets done when I think it will....)

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  8. Wish I were your neighbor, too. (Sounds a bit like Mr. Rogers...).
    I had a long to-do list today. the first 2 things were the most important and neither got done, because the places I needed to find what I wanted were NOT OPEN!!!!! ARRGGHH!!
    But I did do everything else, including make Thai mushroom soup, so I'm over it.
    I used to have a beautiful old 100th anniversary model Singer in a cabinet. Gave it away. I never thought about making it a hand-crank. Nuts!

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  9. Now, that's a good neighbor. And oiling and delinting an old 66 is a mission of mercy.

    I have a Singer 128 that I converted to hand-crank. It has a vibrating shuttle. It's not hard to use at all, and the bobbin seems like it lasts a lot longer than the 66 bobbins do. It's quiet, I use it to piece quilts while watching old movies.

    If you buy one, make sure the shuttle is in there. The shuttles cost almost as much as the machines if you buy them separately.

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  10. I just have one question- did they have a photograph of Edie Sedgwick at the Youthquaker exhibit - the socialite who was Andy Warhol's "it" girl and the original Youthquaker-

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  11. There is also a Vintage Singer Yahoo mailing list you can join that is a wealth of knowledge. Rain posts there occasionally.

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  12. I think this is why the shop I worked in at Uni always paid the sewing machine repair man so well...there's a lot of work and knowledge involved.
    Hooray for this warm weather! It is lovely up in Rhode Island, so much so that I got sunburnt on my shoulders today.

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  13. Hee hee, I have a 66 in an identical cabinet to Irma's. Mine hails from the thrift store, though. I'm curious about the hand crank but hear the repro cranks aren't as well machined. Cindy Peters tests hers before sending them out.
    Interesting to see vintage Singers, treadles and hand cranks all getting popular. Some places you still can't give them away!

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  14. I confess to be challenged on the upkeep and maintenance front, but I do remove lint and apply oil. However, I'm more interested in the hiking location -- where were you? Looks lovely. It's spring here in Naples, my trees are full of lemons, and the apple, almond, and pear trees have all blossomed.

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  15. Hey that shot of the Hudson looks familiar - where you near Tarrytown?

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  16. Irmas machine looks identical to my model 66 cabinet and all. Sewing on it is the reason I started the I love vintage singers and wagging them home. I have a treadle with the shuttle bobbin system for apocalypse but secretly wish it had the bobbin system the other vintage ones I own have already. I have been told the vs bobbin machines work well though and it is serviced and ready to go as well as the 99k hand crank should power outages occur and ever hang on. I love the cabinet like Irma's machine is in-doesn't take up much space folded up and mine has a sweet little stool that is handy and stores up under out of the way. It was a nice thing to do to get the machine fixed up-might save it from the trash at some point. I have no schedule just other peoples-have not been home for the day in a week and headed out today.Lol! No you are not alone in getting your schedule messed up. mssewcrazy

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  17. I have my grandmother's Singer shuttle and treadle sewing machine. I primarily use my modern New Home machine, but I learned to use the shuttle sewing machine because it would be a shame to let the old girl become a relic. The stitch quality seems fine, but I assume that is a factor of machine condition and tuning, like any other machine. Also, there is a mechanism on my machine that winds the bobbin, so that's not hard. On the down side, I think the bobbin holds less thread, and the shuttles on these things rub metal on metal and they do actually wear out over time (a lot of time). That can be a consideration since it can be hard to find parts. If you see a machine you are interested in, make sure it comes with a few extra bobbins and check the condition of the shuttle.

    The mechanism is cool to watch and amuses small children for irrationally long periods of time.

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  18. You are a very nice boy to help out your neighbor, rice pudding or no. I just posted on my rather nubile blog re: sewing with a hand-crank. There is a certain je ne sais quois about machine-sewing without electricity. Really feel like you're getting away with something. Plus, when the power goes out after Armeggeddon hits, you can still patch your ragged, zombie-bitten clothes. I found my 201 hand-crank on eBay, at an astonishingly great price. I love it to bits. Keep looking there, and scouring your local haunts, 'cuz one man's junk, etc. I too stay away from vibrating shuttle machines---just looks like a potential PITA. Anyhoo, good luck on the hunt---and really love what you do here in blogland! Come see the betty bricolage blog for my hand-crank photo-shoot!

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  19. I hope you warned your neighbor to never replace that machine with a new one - they are not be so forgiving of lack of care.

    I have a VS machine, and it sews fine. I have only 1 original bobbin, and the new ones are dicey if they work or not. If I were buying one to use, I think I'd stay with a model you already have - if nothing else, it would be one less type of bobbin to keep track of. I bought mine only because it was sitting in the antique store scared and crying, not because I intended to use it.

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  20. You are a great neighbor! This post is very timely. I just finished cleaning and oiling my 1950’s machine that I inherited from my mom. After her cleaning, she is running just as smooth as silk. Her bobbin-winder tire is the original, though. Not being in NYC anymore, I guess I’ll have to order a new tire online, but I have no idea how to install. Any tips?

    My inherited old industrial machine is a mystery to me with regard to maintenance. No joke, the motor is bigger than the machine head and it sews a bajillion stitches a minute. I was terrified of it, but we got acquainted this weekend. Now I just need to learn how to clean and oil. I don't have any manual/instructions.

    I also saw a really beautiful VS machine in the antique shop last week. It has been calling out to me ever since, so I’ve been scouring the internet for info, including the sandman site that Rain recommends. The consensus is that these machines are very durable and reliable. They built those babies to last. But the parts are hard to find. If it’s still there after a while, I may buy it just to give it a home.

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    Replies
    1. Roberta, with the bobbin winder in the "up" position you should be able to roll the old tire off and roll the new one on. It may take a few tries (turning the winder as you fit each part the tire in its groove should help) but eventually you'll get it on.

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  21. Rice pudding, a man hike, and being nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award by Laura Mae!

    You sir, live a charmed life.

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  22. Wait! You might be able to use your RedEye 66 treadle. The Treadle On website has instructions for removing the treadle belt and installing the handcrank. You can then remove the crank and go back to the treadle. Wow - 2 machines in one. Of course a 99 is lighter weight but they don't usually have a spoked handwheel. 99s also seem to be overpriced right now.

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  23. Send me your address to crystalpgh@hotmail.com.

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  24. Lint is in the air this week! Yesterday I thought a pin had somehow slipped into the bobbin case of my (nonvintage) machine, so took off the throat plate and lifted out the case. There I saw a nice little birdsnest of lint just waiting to cause grief. When it was brushed out and I moved the machine on the table I found the pin hiding behind the scissors.
    If I'd had rice pudding handy I'd have offered the pin some in thanks for saving me from potential disaster on a fine wool crepe.
    In Melbourne we have just had the first night that hints at winter after a fairly warm and wet start to Autumn. Hence the wool crepe jacket. I hope your summer is pleasant and that either you or Cathy get some harem pants.

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  25. Like most any machine that is properly adjusted, a VS shuttle machine will stitch as fine a stitch as any other machine. If you stick to one of the Singer models (27, 28, 127, 128), you don't need to worry about parts. My wholesaler still sells the bullet shuttles, long bobbins, and even the shuttle carrier. Although the last models Singer made in the late 1950's had respectable construction standards, the older ones (pre WWII) are the better ones and run the smoothest/quietest.

    Winding bobbins are a breeze with the oscillating winder arm that slowly and swings back and forth along the length of the bobbin to precisely wind on the thread in perfect contiguous rows. But be careful - it's mesmerizing to watch it work and you can end up winding 47 bobbins in all the same color thread!! ;-)

    The most satisfying aspect of a VS machine is the soft rhythmic sound it makes as it stitches, especially a treadle or hand-crank - a soft "ka-chick, ka-chick, ka-chick" as it sews.

    Only downside is it's speed - with a relatively large mass of steel swinging back and forth to carry the shuttle/bobbin, it doesn't run very fast. And if you push the pedal to the metal, the machine can walk across the room from the vibration - I think that's why they must have named them "vibrating shuttles". ;-)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Steve -- great info!

      Check out Steve's sewing machine repair site (he also offers classes):

      Bobbindoctor.com

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  26. I recently picked up a 99k hand crank in beautiful condition, and have to say I love it to bits.
    I also looked at some VS machines, but with the cost of replacing the bobbins etc I chose not to go that route.While researching them, I noticed that there is info on converting a 99 on the Sew Classic blog if you choose to go that way.

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