Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You Can Use Vintage Sewing Machines!

Earlier this month I was packing for a trip to Japan. I couldn’t find the shoe bag I made years ago and didn’t want to put my shoes in a plastic Wal-Mart bag, so I decided to whip up another shoe bag. While I was rummaging through the box of scrap fabric, I noticed a pair of my wife’s discarded jeans. It seemed that the bottom of each leg might make a bag large enough for one shoe. Measuring the shoes I wanted to pack, I cut off 18" of the lower end of each pant leg.

I worked the rest of the project with the denim tube inside out. You can’t see it in this photo, but I tucked in about an inch on each side and sewed across the bottom of each leg.

I opened about 1.5" of the seam in the upper edge of the tube to make an opening for the drawstring and sewed down the two seam allowances.

Next, I sewed a ¾" tunnel for the drawstring and inserted the string.

Turning the bag right side out, it is finished.

Using a higher section of the leg, you could make one bag large enough to hold two shoes, but I thought it might be easier to pack a pair of shoes if they could be tucked into two separate corners of the suitcase. Just to keep this on the subject of vintage sewing machines, I sewed this project on my Singer 111W155 compound feed upholstery machine. That monster made quick work of those denim seams.

I traded an 8-track player for this machine in the early 70's. I had it professionally rebuilt for $295 and have used it for about 35 years now with no further repair. I expect it to last me the rest of my life.


Anonymous said...

Great idea Ed, I have a whole wash basket of old jeans waiting for something, now I know what. Somehow, I just couldn't throw them out.

I am now onto my 3rd Supernova....funny, when you least expect it they seem to come home with you. The 2 last ones are coming home this week. One is in near perfect shape...said the seller...the other looks well used with no accessories...no problem though. It just has to sew when I say sew.

So&So said...

That looks like a great Industrial machine. You mention that it is a compound feed, does that mean it is both a walking-foot and needle-feed machine, or only one or the other? Oooh, I really like your Pfaff too, I'm looking to purchase an old Pfaff 145, but am unsure what to offer the seller.


Ed Lamoureux said...

The 111W155 has both needle feed and walking foot. I believe it and its Juki/Consew/Pfaff/Adler clones are the most popular upholstery machines. I know it has never let me down when sewing upholstery fabrics.

Before you buy that Pfaff, make SURE that all the parts are there. I bought a Pfaff 144 double-needle machine off ebay with a broken feed dog. Price quote for just a feed dog is $495. The dealer told me it was good that I didn't also need the throat plate, because that would cost $695! With a bit of grinding, I think I can make a Singer feed dog work and already know the Singer throat plate fits.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ed, I just realized that I have a working Necchi BF with an instruction manual that was passed down to me. I just finished a sewing project and it worked great! I just noticed that the belt that goes around the wheel has a tear in it. How do I know what kind of belt to buy for it? Please help!!

Ed Lamoureux said...

The easiest way is to remove the belt and take it to the sewing machine dealer when you shop for the new belt. He can compare the old belt with his stock of new belts until he finds the same size.


cailin rua said...

hey there :)
i just received a singer 111w155 and have been busy on the interweb trying to learn all about it. that's how i came across this blog. thanks for sharing all of your info.
i have a question and maybe you can help me. i understand this machine was built for heavy materials, so does that mean i cant get a smaller needle and sew "regular" fabric as well? would i have to adjust the tension? basically i have a ton of questions. if you dont mind could you at least answer the one question about the fabric? my email is mitzifinn@gmail.com. i also need to know best ways to keep her running smoothly.

Ed Lamoureux said...

To start with, download the 111W155 Using and Adjusting Manual from http://parts.singerco.com/IPinstManuals/111W152_153_154_155.pdf Make sure you clean out all the lint, thread, and dried-up oil and then oil in accordance with the instructions in the manual. Then, I would suggest you go to http://www.tpub.com/content/aviation/14218/css/14218_198.htm to learn the basics of the 111W155 and then on to http://www.tpub.com/content/aviation/14217/css/14217_53.htm to learn some preventive maintenance and repair procedures.

I have not had much luck sewing fabrics lighter than denim with my 111W. That does not mean it can't be done, but I have other machines that were designed for lighter weight fabrics and use one of them, rather than trying to trick the upholstery machine into sewing shirting. The thing about industrial machines is that they are designed to do one particular type of sewing and they do that very well. They don't perform as well if you try to make them sew fabrics they weren't designed to sew.


cailin rua said...

thank you so much for the great advice and links. i guess i will be sewing heavy curtains and leather for the rest of my life. or perhaps i could trade it? i wonder if this machine is in demand at all (at a low cost, as it was traded to me - no money was exchanged).
again, thanks so much :)

Ed Lamoureux said...

111W155s usually sell on ebay in the $300 to $400 range for the sewing head only. Right now, there appears to be a slump and they are only bringing $200-$250. I would first advertise locally in hope that an upholstery shop, car restorer, or boat owner is in the market.

Jenny M said...

May I ask a question? I have a Singer 503a and a Singer 301a. Which one should I keep? I don't need two. Also, I only have one bobbin for the 301 because it's an unusual size, and my 503 is going to need a new bobbin case and slide plate bobbin cover, which will be under $20. I think I will have to take either one in to be, what do you call it? Conditioned? They run, but there was some sort of tension problem I remember. Thanks!

Ed Lamoureux said...

Jenny M., Which machine to keep depends on the type of sewing you do. The 301 is straight stitch-only, so if you sew quilts or home dec, the 301 is light, easy to carry, and simple to maintain. It uses the same bobbins as the Featherweight so look for Singer 221 bobbins. I keep a stock of them so as a last resort, let me know and I can ship you some but shipping cost would make them fairly expensive and it would be better if you can find them locally.

The 503 has dozens of decorative and utility stitches so if you sew clothing or other things that require zig zag, the 503 is a better choice. The parts you need are easy to find and not expensive so that shouldn't be a factor in your decision. I suspect you may just have a configuration problem - if you remove the bobbin case retaining bracket then, as you reinstall, push the tongue down in the channel it rides in so that tongue goes under the spring clip at the end of the channel. Let me know if that solves your bobbin case problem. -Ed