Monday, April 21, 2014

Lower Tension Adjusting

My Necchi Lelia was giving me some loose stitches yesterday.  Adjusting the upper tension and presser foot pressure had no effect, so I pulled out the bobbin case and checked the tension on it. I have a spring tool that supposedly tells the proper upper and lower tensions 

but I have used it before and am not happy with the results. 
Tension always seems way too tight after adjusting to the tool's marks. 

I read somewhere on the internet that proper Class 15 bobbin case tension could be found by filling a bag with just under 1 1/2 ounces of sugar and hanging that bag of sugar from the bobbin thread.  Not wanting to keep a bag of sugar around to invite ants, I opted for a bag of metal washers instead.

I broke out my cheap-o balance scale 

and measured out 1 1/2 ounces of washers and put them in a zip-lock bag.

Adjust the tension screw on the bobbin case until the bag of sugar slowly drops. If the bag stays suspended, tension is too tight; if the bag drops like a rock, tension is too loose.  

When you have the adjustment just right, re-insert the bobbin case in the machine and adjust upper tension to achieve a balanced stitch. 

I adjusted the Lelia's bobbin tension until the bag dropped slowly and put the bobbin case back in the machine. Stitches were ALMOST perfect, maybe just a tiny bit tight - I had to increase upper tension to '5' to balance the stitches but it gives me a starting point. I will remove washers from the bag one-by-one until I have a measuring device that gives me the result I want.

My next thought is to use some of that left-over spring wire to make a homemade tension scale.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spool Holders

If you have a vintage Singer Touch & Sew, you probably have noticed that the spool holders have lost the foam pads that hold the thread spool from spinning and rattling.

Replacement pads are available,

but I am always looking for ways to re-use something around the house, rather than buy new.  When we got our new family room furniture, I went to Wal-Mart and picked up a package of 1 1/2 inch felt pads to protect the hardwood floors from scratches. 

There are still about 10 felt pads remaining in the package and they looked about the size of the spool holder pads, so I decided to give it a try.

Using my 50-year-old high school geometry knowledge, I got out a compass and marked the center of the felt pad. 

Then, using the largest adapter on my leather punch,

I punched a hole exactly in the center of the felt pad.

I cleaned the remaining sponge from the spool holder

and mounted the peel-and-stick pad to the spool holder.

And here it is, all ready to go. 

Now I have to look through my stash of felt pads to see if there is one the correct size to renew the small spool holder.


Ed's Vintage Sewing Machine Shop

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Foot Control

Kathie and I took a day trip to Fredericksburg, Virginia today.  As usual, we hit all the fabric stores and quilt shops for Kathie and thrift shops for me.  In one Goodwill, I spotted a like-new foot control for $2.99.

 Because I'm too lazy to fix up the tub of foot controls in the shop, I am always happy to pick up a working model.  I looked at the power cord and saw that it was a three prong grounded type.  That's good.

Then I looked at the cord that hooks to the sewing machine to see if I knew what machine it came from and saw that it has a three prong socket at the end of that cord.

  It is not a sewing machine foot control at all, it is a speed control for any motorized piece of equipment.  Well, a sewing machine is a piece of motorized equipment, isn't it?  I now have a "shop foot control" to test any machine having the motor & light block type of hookup.

 Just plug the MOTOR connector into the plug from the "shop foot control" and step on the pedal.  I wish I had invented this myself.  To add more flexibility, I could put a male wall plug on the end of some common power cords and be able to test machines that do not use the motor & light block.  And it gives me a way to get rid of some of those old foot controls if I should ever get around to fixing them up - I will just wire in a 2- or 3-pin socket and turn them into speed controls.

Ed's Vintage Sewing Machine Store

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The Big Shirt

About a year ago, Kathie saw a Northcott Fabric Rep wearing a “Big Shirt” and immediately fell in love.  She bought the book and the fabric for one of her own, but there was one problem – although she is an experienced quilter, she doesn’t sew clothes!  Since I have made a few Hawaiian shirts and this looks like a Hawaiian shirt in cotton, I volunteered to do the sewing.  It's basically an oversized man's shirt with buttons on the opposite side.

  But this vintage sewing machine blog isn't about shirt-making. It also isn't about the Singer 603 I used to sew the shirt 

or the rescued-from-a-storage-shed Babylock serger that I used to finish the seams;

 It is about the buttonholes 

and the Singer buttonholer that accomplished that task.

There are several types of Singer buttonholers, some for straight stitch machines, some for vertical needle zig zag machines, and some for slant needle zig zag machines.  Since the 603 is a slant needle machine, the slant needle buttonholer was the logical choice. 

  I prefer the buttonholers for zig zag machines because the machine zig zag stitch does the work of forming the satin stitch around the buttonhole while the buttonholer only has to move the fabric in the shape of the desired buttonhole.  

Buttonholers for straight stitch machines move the fabric left and right to form the satin stitch and move the fabric in the shape of the desired buttonhole. I have never made buttonholes of the same quality using a straight stitch buttonholer.  At last count, I had about 17 straight stitch buttonholers but when I want a buttonhole, I use a zig zag buttonholer.

One thing to remember when using a buttonholer – ALWAYS START WITH A FULL BOBBIN!  2/3 of the way through my first buttonhole on this shirt, the bobbin ran out and I had to rip out 2/3 of a buttonhole and start over.  On most machines, that would be a problem but on a Touch & Sew with wind-in-place bobbin, it’s twice the trouble.

Anyway, here’s the finished product. 

Now that I have one under my belt, I might make another for myself (but with matching fabric).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Singer Circular Stitcher Instructions

I had someone ask me today for instructions for the Singer Circular Stitcher.

 I thought it would be an easy task but spent hours scouring the many books in my personal library and then the internet only to come up dry.  It seems that many people have obtained a Circular Stitcher without instructions.  I did learn that the instructions are contained in the Singer 636 Instruction Manual so I downloaded the whole 66 mb manual from the Singer website to get the one page Circular Stitcher Instructions.  Here they are:

Ed's Vintage Sewing Machine Store

Friday, March 14, 2014

Drowning in Feathers

When we opened the quilt shop, I loaded up on Ebay Featherweights, planning to clean them up and sell them in the shop.  You know the rest of the story - the shop is closed and now I have more Featherweights than I want to store!

This week, I decided to start getting them ready to sell online.  Last night, I finished the first one and listed it on Etsy.  It wasn't easy on the wallet, it was missing the bobbin case, feed dog, foot control and light bulb; the bed cushions were all mashed down; and the needlebar was slightly bent.  After a week's work, it is all assembled, tested, and ready for someone to enjoy.

Now, only three more to go!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Replacing a Necchi Power Cord

The other day I lifted my Nora out of the cabinet to install a light bulb and noticed that the power cord was a bit on the worn-out side.
On my next parts order, I put three replacement cords in my cart and they arrived today. If the Nora had a peculiar cord, I probably wouldn't have been able to find a replacement but, fortunately, this is the same cord used by Lelia, Mirella, Esperia, Supernova and probably other Necchis, so replacement was available.

 I think most people who read this blog know how to replace a power/foot control cord but some might be hesitant so I thought I would go through it step-by-step for those folks.

First, unplug the power cord so you don't get shocked.  Tip the foot control over and remove the screws from the four corners of the bottom plate.

Lift off the bottom plate and insulator below to expose the connection points for the power cord.

Unscrew the two terminals and remove the connectors.  Remove the grommet from the old cord.  Install the grommet on the new cord before connecting the terminals because you can't do it afterwards.

Separate the two wires about 3-4 inches and tie them in a simple knot. This keeps a portion of the cord inside the foot control and relieves any strain on the ceramic guts of the foot control.

Connect the two wires to the two terminals.  On a two-wire system, it makes no difference which wire goes to each terminal.

Reinstall the grommet in the slot in the back of the controller,

set the insulating blanket on the terminals to keep the energized terminals from contacting the metal controller bottom plate and reinstall the bottom plate.

You're now ready to plug it up and take it for a spin!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Singer 401G

I abandoned the Supermatic for an old standby Singer 401A and finished the project I was working on.  Sewing on the 401A made me think about the 401G on the shelf that hadn't been used in years.  All I remember is that I didn't like it when I got it and put it on the display shelf for someday in the future when I felt like tinkering.

  The machine is in excellent cosmetic shape, obviously not used too much in the past. It came with a unique accessory box having two slide-out drawers instead of the 401A box with hinged lid

  It is kind of a cross between the American 400 series and the American 500 series machines.  It has the general body shape of a 401A with the thread finger of a 500A.

At first look, I thought the bobbin winder was missing and I have never parted out a 401, 403, or 404 to salvage the bobbin winder.

 Then I realized that while the mounting provisions exist for a 401A-type bobbin winder on the front of the machine, the bobbin winder on the 401G is in the top lid.

To begin with, the motor would not run.  Turned out the connector on the motor was loose and not making connection.  That gave me the opportunity to pull out the motor and lubricate both ends of the shaft.  Next issue was a loose hook shaft - not much, just enough to make a click when it was jiggled.  Loosening the screw on the collar and sliding it toward the hook about half a millimeter solved that.

I oiled and greased everything that needs oiling and greasing but the machine is still noisier than other slant-needle machines.  It still has the beige bobbin winder tire so I am going to assume that the machine has so little wear that the gears have not worn together yet and it will quiet down in time.

I will use it for a while and see what happens.

  After everything was back together, I tried sewing.  The green fabric on the left was the result.

No matter how high I turned the tension dial, I got loops on the underside.  Checked the thread gaps and felt the hook and bobbin case for burrs and could find nothing wrong.  I disassembled the top tension and found nothing wrong there, either but after reassembling, the stitch looked like it should (the pink fabric on the right)  -Ed
Ed's Vintage Sewing Machine Store

Monday, March 03, 2014

Consumer Alert & Supermatic Update

Last week, Kathie was working up a notions order from her distributor and asked me if there was anything I wanted.  Strolling through the pages, I saw a neat-looking product called a Needle Grabber.

  The theory is that you can push down the plunger and a "U"-shaped metal hook emerges.  You grasp a sewing machine needle in the hook of the tool and release the plunger and the needle is now held securely in the tool and it will be easier to insert in the needle clamp of the sewing machine.  Once the needle is installed, you push down the plunger again to release the needle.  I could not order just one to examine, the minimum quantity I could order was three, so I ordered three.

  When they arrived, I took one out of the package for a look-see.  The third time I pushed the plunger, the metal hook broke off, the plunger fell out and the spring shot across the room.

  No way can I sell these, If you want one for yourself, order some needles from my Etsy shop and specify that you want a Needle Grabber and I will include it in the next two buyers' packages free of charge. Just be aware that you have been informed of the inherent dangers and that wearing eye protection when using would be advisable.


  I am not happy with this machine. It is fussy about the material I try to sew, the stitches are too short for many of the things I sew, the friction wheel drive slips, and the knee lever speed control is too sensitive - I am constantly bumping it and running the machine without fabric under the foot. Anyone who sews knows what happens then, the needle thread gets caught around the hook and has to be worked out. The stitch and friction wheel issues might be correctable but I don't see any way to overcome the kneebar problem.

  I have never done this before to a complete machine in good cosmetic condition but I am going to part this one out and sell the pieces in order to recoup my investment and free up space in my sewing room.

  If you need any parts from a tan Supermatic, email me at my gmail address OldSewingMachines.  


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Guess What's on This Week's Auction

I can't believe I have never seen one of these before and now I see two in two weeks!

  My first thought was that this is the same item on the two-weeks-ago auction that someone either didn't pick up or is trying to flip for a profit since the previous auction was "General Estate" and this week it's "Antiques and Collectibles" but I don't see the kneebar hanging down nor the second kneebar on the tabletop.  The sewing head appears to be in about the same cosmetic condition.  I tried to compare the scrapes and scratches in the two photos but that's difficult because the previous photo was taken from the front of the table and this one from the back. I do notice that the machine is backward, the needle end should be at the long end of the table, not the short end. -Ed