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Archive for the ‘Sewing machines’ Category

This is Esmeralda.  She is a beautiful green Singer 327K, serial number  ET670062, with a registration date of July 31, 1962.   She has just come home from the sewing machine hospital, where she was put right again after an extreme case of smokin’ hot foot pedal!
The official Singer serial number list shows this number as belonging to a 328K, but Esme is clearly marked “327K”.  The K just means that she was manufactured at Singer’s Kilbowie factory in Clydebank, Scotland.
I do simple repairs and maintenance on my hand-crank and treadle machines, but electrical problems are beyond my skills. My sewing machine guy is brilliant — he rewired the original foot pedal and saved the vintage casing and electrical cord to keep Esme’s green and brown colour scheme intact.
The sewing machine man was even able to get a new green bobbin winder tyre!
Esme uses Class 66 bobbins, which are inexpensive and easy to find.

and she has a lovely storage case that clips on…

She has a new needle plate, too…

and now she’s just as pretty as the day she came out of the factory, and she sews just as well, too!  :)

Happy Quilting!

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On a recent journey down south in England, we visited Bletchley Park National Codes Centre, famous for World War II codebreakers and the mathematical genius Alan Turing and his colleagues.  The 2001 movie Enigma was filmed there, although that is a highly fictionalised account of the activities that took place there.

We saw Enigma machines and the Colossus computer, took a tour of the grounds and later had a nice picnic outdoors.

My husband loves computers, and my daughter and I are very interested in antique toys and household items.  While he was off looking at other computers, we were thrilled to find this antique Husqvarna sewing machine from the 1920s in a little museum.

The colours in the decals were still so bright and lovely.  We were allowed to turn the handle, and the mechanism was smooth and silent!

In the toy section, we saw a tiny sewing machine in a dolls house:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and we saw some of our other favourites, too — Mr. Punch (of Punch and Judy fame):

and a Batman joystick from an old computer games console!  We really love Batman at our house!

It was great day out with something for everyone!   :)

Happy Quilting!

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Lately I’ve been sewing only in my sewing room on my two favourite electric machines  — Marie, the Janome 6500P, and Peggy, the Singer 201K from 1951.

Today however, my 10-year-old asked me if I would sew in the living room so I could watch Dr. Who DVDs with her.  How could I resist a lovely offer like that?!  ;-)

I didn’t want to move those heavy electric machines and worry about extension leads trailing across the floor, so it was Ruby, the Singer 99K, to the rescue!  Small, portable, hand operated, and she doesn’t make much noise — just right for TV watching while sewing.

We are working on an ancient Blue and Yellow UFO.  I’m not sure exactly how old it is, but I do know that I bought this fabric in Houston, Texas, when I lived there, so this might be 16 years old or so.

The pattern is Crossed Canoes, and the paper pieced pattern can be found here on the World Wide Quilting Page.

I had 11 blocks previously made, and now I have enough components to assemble 25 blocks.  There is loads of fabric left, so I might keep going until I have enough blocks for a large bed-size quilt.  Most of the people in our family are tall, so lap quilts really aren’t big enough for us to wrap up in while reading or watching TV.

And here is Nigel, the quilting dog, supervising the activities!  He and this UFO project are just about the same age!  :)  He is always my Number 1 helper.

 

Happy Quilting!

 

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My latest restoration project is “Ruby,” a Singer 99K model from 1927, serial number Y4432093.

I was so impatient to start working on her that I forgot to take any “Before” photos.  So here she is, just being beautiful in the “After” stage.  :)

Ruby came to me in a sadly neglected state.  She was very grimy and sticky, the chrome on the bobbin plate and needle plate was badly pitted, and the lid to the accessories compartment was completely rusted out.  I believe she probably started her life as a hand-crank machine but later was fitted with an electric motor.   The electrical plug end was the old type that fits into a light socket where a bulb normally goes.  The flex cord was very frayed and twisted, and I didn’t want to risk a shock, so I removed all the old electrical bits and disposed of them.

In my treasure chest of sewing machine parts, I just happened to have a hand-crank mechanism of the right style and size to fit this machine, so I installed that.  I found a replacement accessories compartment lid on eBay, and I used sewing machine oil and a cheap emery board from the grocery store to sand out the pits in the chrome.  I took the tension assembly apart and cleaned that, and gave the whole machine a good cleaning and oiling inside and out.

Finally I polished all the enameled surfaces with a non-abrasive auto polish that is recommended for use on Aston Martin and Jaguar cars.  I figured, if it’s safe enough for fine motor cars, it ought to be safe for my little sewing machine — but I did test it first on the underside, just to be sure!

This is Ruby’s bentwood case.  I was also able to locate a square-ended key to fit the lock, so now she can be stored and moved safely in her case.

Inside the accessories compartment was this large assortment of attachments and feet, including the requisite lethal-looking razor blade!  Every vintage machine I’ve ever bought has had a razor blade like that with it.  It’s what people used before seam-ripper tools were invented, although my mother always used fine embroidery scissors, and so do I.

With stitch length adjusted and tension fine-tuned, she is now sewing perfectly.  I think Ruby’s a keeper!

Happy Quilting!

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I’ve been having fun with my new sewing machine that we brought home yesterday.  It’s a Singer Model 15K80 from 1937.

When she’s put away, she looks like this:

I cleaned and oiled the machine itself and lubricated the treadle irons, and she is so quiet now!  She has a lot of wear to her decals, and her wooden table could be refinished, but mechanically she is sound and works great.  That’s most important to me for this machine.  I wanted a good treadle that I can really use a lot.

We bought the machine from a lady in Leeds who inherited it from her great-aunt Whilhemina, who was a seamstress.  It came with a drawer full of attachments, a shoebox full of thread spools, and a big plastic bag full of scrap fabric.  I’ve named her “Mina” in honour of her previous owner.  She also has her original instruction book and a receipt from January 31, 1959, when she was bought used from the Singer dealer for £30.  That was a lot of money in 1959!  The wear to the decals is where the lady’s hands would rest when she was sewing.  It’s just so sweet.  I love it.  :)

She is sitting on a plastic sheet because I oiled and cleaned the treadle irons and didn’t want to make a mess on the carpet.

Happy New Year!  Happy Quilting!

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ISMACS (International Sewing Machine Collectors’ Society) has recently made the vintage Singer serial numbers available on their website.

At the Singer Sewing Company website, you can get a certificate for your vintage machine using the serial number.  It’s really good fun!  They also have lots of historical information and pictures relating to vintage Singer sewing machines as part of their 160th Anniversary celebration.

Happy Quilting!

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Today I’ve been sewing on “Lavinia,” my Singer 15K treadle machine from 1907.  First I cleaned her and oiled her, and then we made some Maple Leaf blocks.  She sews such a lovely stitch!

I’ve been trying to determine which sub-category this Singer 15 fits into — I know she’s not a 15K80 or 15-96.  At first I thought she was a 15K30, but when I saw a photo of that model, I realised the bobbin winder is in the wrong place.  The letter K just means that she was manufactured in the UK, at Singer’s Kilbowie factory in Clydebank, Scotland.

Lavinia’s bobbin winder is in the lower position.  The 15K30 photo I saw had the bobbin winder in the higher position, near the top of the machine.

I like to think that someone spent many happy hours sewing on this machine.  Look how worn her decals are on the machine bed!

I’ll keep looking for her model sub-group, but it doesn’t really matter.  I just love to sew with her, and I’m planning to spend many happy hours with her, too!  :)

Happy Quilting!

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My latest project has been to clean and restore this sweet little Vibra handcrank machine to good running order.  She really is small — her base is 12 inches long, 6.5 inches wide, and 1.5 inches tall from the bottom of the cast iron feet to the machine bed.

She is badged as a “Vibra,” but she’s really a Jones CS in disguise.  All Jones CS (cylindrical shuttle) machines have that large screw on the top, between the spool pins.

I found some information about this model and a photo of a similar machine at the Antique and Vintage Sewing Machine Virtual Museum.   The serial number of my machine is 510728, so I think she was made in the mid-1930s like the example machine on the website.

The chrome on the balance wheel, faceplate and slide plates is all beautiful and smooth.  There were some dark spots before cleaning that I thought might be pitting, but luckily it was only dirt!

After cleaning, she just needed some round-shank needles and a new rubber tyre for the bobbin winder, and I was able to order those online, as well as an instruction book,  from Helen Howes Old Sewing Machines   — no affiliation, just very pleased with the excellent service and valuable advice.

Now my little Vibra is working perfectly!  I need to do something about her poor old storage case, which is in a very sad condition…but that’s a story for another day!

Happy Quilting!

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For several years now, one of my favourite places to visit on the Internet has been a sewing machine history website called The Needlebar.  It has (or possibly still has) a photo gallery of almost every sewing machine in the world, and I could easily spend hours there looking at the evolution of designs of the various brands, especially the Singers which are my favourites.

I have 15 vintage Singer machines, ranging in date from 1888 to 1975 including three treadles and two hand-cranks.  In addition, I have a 19th century Jones Hand Machine, a 1930s Vibra (made by Jones) and a working Varley & Wolfenden machine from 1880.  All of these machines were bought in England, and they were not expensive.  I have found them in unexpected places, and I haven’t paid a great deal for them because that is not in my budget.  I was able to identify them and trace their histories by using the photo gallery.

These machines have brought me so much joy, and I sew on all of them as much as possible.  After all, they are SEWING machines, and as I am a practical and utilitarian person who abhors a waste, I like to use these sewing machines for the purpose for which they were intended.  Not as an ornament, not as a garden table, not as a conservatory plant stand.

So, back to The Needlebar.  Lately I had noticed that my access was being restricted to all but the most basic forums, and I had not been allowed at all to use the photo gallery.  I checked my login information — it all seemed OK.  I read the owner’s notice in the introduction forum — I thought I had complied fully with the requirements.  Then I accidentally discovered another post by the owner, most obscurely titled, that revealed to me the source of my problems:

I have not posted enough in this “fully participatory” group to merit my membership anymore.  In the past, I have sent in photos to be considered for the photo gallery, but I never received any acknowledgement, so if they weren’t suitable photos, no one told me why not.   I do own a lot of sewing machines, and I like to use them, but I would certainly not classify myself as an expert.  I don’t think I would be qualified to answer questions except on the most basic level.  But I always enjoyed reading what others had to say and learning from their expertise.  The owner seems to feel that this is only “taking” and not participating, and that talking about actually sewing on an antique sewing machine is off-topic, but hey — it’s his website, so he can make the rules.

I always get along well with everyone, so feeling properly chastised and hugely embarrassed, I politely wrote to the owner to inquire about my status.  No reply.  I then posted a new introduction, thinking that perhaps I should start over for a clean slate.  No reply.  Other new introductions have since been approved for posting, but not mine.

So I guess I am Persona Non Grata with this sewing machine site that is solely interested in the history of sewing machines and their manufacture and doesn’t give a flip about the purpose of these marvellous, lovely, labour-saving devices that changed the lives of so many women all those years ago — the same machines that still mean so much to people like me.

Never mind.  I already think I spend too much time on the computer when I could be doing something more productive — like sewing!  :)

Happy Quilting!

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This is one of my much-loved vintage Singer sewing machines.  She is called the Bluebird of Happiness, and she’s painted pale Sky Blue with dark blue accents.

She is a 359K straight stitch machine, manufactured at the Kilbowie factory in Clydebank, Scotland.   She has an EY serial number, which is not listed in the Singer archives, but from Internet research, I think she is probably a 1967-1969 model.

I have heard this model described as “low end,” but that phrase sounds so derogatory.   I think she’s a wonderful sewing machine, so I prefer to think of her as “priced for the modest budget.”  :)

There is nothing low-end about the way she performs — a nice even stitch every time, and she is extremely quiet for a 40-something-year-old mechanical sewing machine.

I wanted to be able to use her for a full range of sewing tasks, so I have been buying new accessories for her from time to time.  She now has a vintage Singer buttonhole attachment for dressmaking:

and a vintage Singer zigzag attachment for overcasting seams and making decorative stitches:

I also wanted to piece quilt blocks with this machine but was having difficulty maintaining a consistent 1/4-inch seam.  I looked all over for a Singer 1/4-inch foot to fit her and could only find one for Featherweights (Singer 221K) that would have to come from America, and it was very, very expensive.  So….I made my own 1/4-inch foot adaptation for this machine using a low-shank connector and a snap-on foot that were salvaged from another brand of machine whose motor had burned out and couldn’t be repaired.

See what the Bluebird can do now!  We were happy before, and now we’re overjoyed!

Happy Quilting!

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