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Thursday, April 12, 2012

TR-3 Resin Glaze

I bought some of this stuff online a while ago after having seen it used to clean up two vintage sewing machines on another website. One machine was covered in intricate decals. There were no before pictures, but the decals on the machine did not appear to have been silvered by the use of this product. The other machine was all black with only a small amount of gold lettering. Both machines cleaned up very well, looking practically new. The woman posting about this product had used the TR-3 on cotton balls with better than good results, but did warn to "test, test, test."

I have a Singer 15-91 that I am eager to get all cleaned up, but I decided to test it on my Singer 99-13 first. The decals on the 99-13 were not in the greatest shape to start with--most were already silvered, or missing completely.

The best looking decals on this machine (that are still mostly intact, and still all golden) reside on the back of the pillar, and are hidden behind the motor. I decided, therefore, to start my testing there. Below are the before and after pictures.

Before the decals were dark, dusty, dingy, and covered in a slightly sticky residue.
After applying the TR-3 with a cotton ball, and rubbing in small, circular motions, the decals looked brighter, and still golden. They appear a bit lighter in this photo than they actually are. I don't know how dark the gold would have appeared new, but the results looked pretty good to me. And the pillar shined up really well. So I moved on to the back of the machine bed . . .

Here's a before shot of the back, left corner of the machine bed (and mostly silvered decals). I never did clean this machine when I first brought it home.You can probably see the waxy film that was there. I had no idea if this was just the top of the finish wearing away, or old polish, or what. Having no idea what it was, or how to clean it, I just used the machine as is.

And here is the after photo. I rubbed these decals a lot, using at least three applications of TR-3 on cotton balls. The good news is, the still golden parts of the decals didn't get any lighter. The bad news, however, is that the parts of the decals that were already silver rubbed away with the grime. The black paint polished up to a mirror like shine.

The film near the faceplate was a little different. I could easily scrape it away with my fingernail. Again, I don't know what this stuff was. This machine spent time in the junkyard, and then in a smoker's home. When I brought it home, the cabinet and machine were both saturated with smoking odors--so much so, that I got a headache every time I used the machine. I suspect, then, that the gunk covering the machine might be tar from the cigarette smoke. Who knows?

Since I wanted to be more careful this time with the decals, I used a plastic kitchen scraper to scrape off what I could of the tar, and then cleaned and shined it up with the TR-3.

In some places the residue was a little more stubborn and took a lot more passes to remove. When the TR-3 dried on it, it became the brownish discoloration you see in the photo on the left. However, with enough cotton balls, the TR-3 did remove it, with no ill effects on the black paint.

So here's the moral of this tail. I will repeat what I read on that other website. Test, test, test!

Be very careful on the decals. One or two passes doesn't seem to do any harm. I suspect on a machine not this dirty, or with less stubborn grime, the decals would be just fine. Even so, in the future I will use this stuff on the decals last, after I've polished up the rest of the machine.

Also, assess the mess on your particular machine. You may not be able to get the decals completely clean using the TR-3, at least not without rubbing them completely off, so you'll want to make sure any dirt and grime doesn't discolor too badly. Find an inconspicuous spot on the machine to apply the TR-3, and see what any remaining grime looks like after the polish has had time to dry.
 If  the grime changes colors, (as shown in the photo above) you may want to consider cleaning most of it off using another method before polishing the machine with TR-3. The TR-3 will remove some very tough grime (even if the previous application has dried overnight), but, once applied, it also makes it more difficult to clean the grime off by other means. The discolorations you see above were completely removed with more applications of TR-3. However, I couldn't do as many passes over the decals, so a bit of brown remains around the lettering.

Here's what my Singer 99-13 looks like now . . .

I hardly went over the decals on the front of the machine bed at all, so they look about the same as when I started--silvered and worn away. You can probably see that I've got a bit more cleaning to do on the front, but it will all clean up and polish up nicely tomorrow. I needed a break. :~)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Industrial Singer Sewing Machine

Like many other vintage sewing machine enthusiasts, I've seen my fair share of machines on eBay listed as "Industrial Strength," "Heavy Duty," "Industrial Grade," "Light Industrial," etc. I never paid much attention to such claims, or what they actually meant, because I was searching with a purpose, already having a particular machine in mind before browsing listings. And, being a quilter, I'm more apt to sew quilting cotton (though I do occasionally hem jeans)--not exactly an industrial machine type of job.

Cut to a few days ago when I was trying to identify my new-to-me Singer 15-91.
 One of the places I searched for information was YouTube. Try searching "Singer 15-91" on YouTube and will find video, after video labeled "leather sewing test" or something similar. I watched a few of them, and in most was someone claiming that the above machine is industrial strength, grade, whatever. It was actually difficult to find real information about this machine for all those online advertising it as industrial strength. Apparently the Singer 15-91 is one of the machines most likely to be advertised this way. More ludicrous still was that I also came across a few mentions of the Singer 99-13 as an industrial strength machine.

The 99-13 is one of the few Singers that I also happen to own. At 3/4 size, it's not even a full size domestic, let alone industrial.

Long story short, this experience has opened my eyes. I can now see why so many vintage sewing machine collectors get frustrated with sellers who advertise domestic sewing machines as industrial grade. At the very least, it makes it more difficult to find accurate information, and at the very most, such sellers are taking advantage of inexperienced buyers and inflating prices.

There are several guides online discussing domestic vs. industrial machines, including one on eBay Guides, and on the Ultimate Sew & Vac site. The most informative I've seen by far, though, is on  "The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog". There you will see side-by-side photo comparisons of actual industrial machines and domestics, including their motors, and other parts. Thank you Rain! Your excellent photo comparisons really put things into perspective.

Singer 15-91

I've been looking for a Singer sewing machine with a potted motor for a little while now. I passed one up on a few weeks back because the bidding got too hot. Someone wanted it badly, and I didn't feel like fighting over it (or paying more for it). So when I lifted the lid on a sewing cabinet at a local Goodwill this past weekend and saw this (for only $30), I felt I'd lucked out.
I wasn't exactly sure of the model (I have a lot more vintage Kenmores than Singers) but I suspected it was a model 15-91. And I was right. Just in case you can't see through all that dust, the serial number reads AG787409. According to the two letter prefix list of serial numbers on the Singer site, this one was made in 1946.

It's not the cleanest machine in the world, but I've been partial to extra dirty machines lately. I want to get some restoration experience. And nothing gets you quite as familiar with sewing machine parts as having to give a machine a good, detailed cleaning.
Just look at all those cobwebs on the underside of the machine. The case was full of them too, as well as a heavy blanket of dust, and some long dead spider egg sacks. I took the whole thing outside on a mild, sunny Monday morning, and brushed it all out. A light wind was blowing in just the right direction to keep all that stuff from getting in my eyes or up my nose.

Here are some more before pictures.
Is this one heck of a thread tangle, or what? That must have been the last straw, but it wasn't difficult to remove.
The paint job does have some pin pricks in it, but for the most part the decals appear to be in good shape, though dim. There is a bit of rust also. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how she cleans up.
And remember that large box that sat inside the case, next to the machine? This is what was in it.

It's a buttonholer with the manual included. This type doesn't use templates. There are a few adjustments on the side that dictate the buttonhole size--I'll figure that all out later.  

Cleanup has already begun. I'm cleaning the parts that I can while I wait on some Kroil and a proper screwdriver set. I've got some stubborn screws that need loosening before I can look at the motor, and clean up the outside of the machine. In the meantime, I have plenty to keep me busy. 

The Invisible Zipper Fiasco

I'm an intermediate to advanced quilter, but a novice seamstress. So when I committed to making dresses for my best friend's nieces to wear in her wedding in May, I knew I was going to need plenty of practice. I had already made a practice dress months ago, using this Simplicity pattern.
 It turned out way too tight, in part because I had no understanding of ease: wearing ease. Rookie mistake.

With the wedding quickly approaching (and the fabric purchased) I decided to give it another go. This time the practice dress was for my daughter, using cotton fabric I already had on hand. The purpose of this trial run was to make sure that I could get a good fit with my new understanding of ease. Having already measured the applicable part of the pattern to ensure there would be enough wearing ease around the bust (the only fitted part of the pattern) I chose the appropriate size, and the dress came together rather quickly.

It turned out very cute, if I do say so myself. Here it is finished.
However, before this came the invisible zipper. Who knew that of all the many steps in the process, this would be the most frustrating. Usually YouTube is my savior when it comes to my "how to" queries, but this time the results were less than stellar. Don't get me wrong--there were plenty of good, basic tutorials on installing an invisible zipper between two pieces of sample fabric, which is great if you don't have the first idea how to begin. Sewing the zipper into an actual garment (in my case a dress) is another story. With the zipper in, the back of seam of the dress looked puckered and lumpy.
 It doesn't actually look very bad in this photo, but you can see where the seams on the back of the bodice are not lined up, which made the dress pucker badly in the back when worn. 
I ripped it all out, and tried again.
I also dismantled the bodice and bodice lining because I had taken it in a little too much at the side seams.
On the second pass the zipper looked better, but still not great. I decided to call it a night and pack it in, and as I was cleaning up my sewing mess, I noticed that the invisible zipper came with instructions. Hmm . . . So, hoping the third time would be the charm, I ripped again. Between trying to fit the dress to my daughter, and getting the zipper installed correctly so the back seam was smooth when zipped up, it actually took five or six tries.

Here's what I learned in the process:

1. Read the directions that came with the zipper. This sounds basic, and it is. I'm more of a visual learner, so sometimes I gloss over this step. However, as it turns out, the directions that came with the zipper were more specific and easier to follow than any videos I watched.

2. You may have to alter the pattern directions to suit the zipper you are using. The dress pattern I used called for a regular zipper, which in turn called for a different method of sewing the zipper into the back seam. With an invisible zipper, you finish sewing the rest of the seam AFTER you've sewn in the zipper. When I make this dress again, I'm going to baste the back seam for the fitting, and open it up again when I install the invisible zipper for a nice, smooth finish.

3. Use the invisible (or concealed) zipper foot made for your machine. Another one may work, if it is adjustable, but the proper one will work better and make the job easier.

4. Baste the zipper (and the rest of the seam) in place first, try the garment on to make sure it fits, and that it looks smooth when zipped.  That way, if any corrections need to be made, the task of ripping will be much quicker, and a lot less frustrating! Ask me how I know. ;~) When you're satisfied with the fit and appearance, stitch the zipper in place and finish the seam.

I'll be making this dress again soon, so stay tuned for an invisible zipper tutorial.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Home Treadle Take-up, In Action

As requested by a reader, here are some stills showing the action of the "hook of take-up" on the New Home treadle.

When the needle bar and needle are at the highest point, the hook of take-up is back.
As the needle and needle bar descend, the hook of take-up swings forward . . .
. . . And by the time the needle has reached it's lowest point, it has swung back again, leaving quite a bit of slack on the spool thread.
 As the needle bar rises, the hook of take-up swings forward again, taking up the slack on the thread.
And by the time the needle has reached it's highest point, the hook of take-up has returned to the back again.

Sizzling Elna Supermatic

Uh-oh. Here I go again--elbow deep in my Elna Supermatic.

I can't begin to tell you how many countless hours I've spent disassembling, reassembling, and adjusting this machine. It's not that there was so much wrong with it to begin with, but it did need some routine maintenance. The bobbin/race area needed cleaning up, and the old motor pulley had a flat spot, which made the machine sound like a weed whacker when running.

Then I decided to upgrade the cam holder. This Supermatic had the original, screw-down cam holder. The cams were a pain to remove. Later Supermatics came with a push-button cam holder--when the button is pushed, the cam pops up on it's own. Long story short, I upgraded my machine with the newer style cam holder, since all the cams I had were intended for this type anyway.

I did all that work on it, and then it sat unused because of the melting noise suppression capacitor on the inside of the machine. This capacitor prevents interference with other appliances in the home, like the radio, or T.V. Take a look at the photo on the left and follow the white wire away from the silver, flat-head screw (on the right side). Where this wire ends, you will see the bottom of the capacitor, and a large glob of brown wax. You can also see the wax has splattered around the inside of the machine . . .

 . . . and on the inside of the base of the machine.

This was a problem from the first. The machine sizzled the first time I used it. It was the capacitor. The bottom was cracked, and some of the wax had melted out of it. And once I heard that the darn thing could actually explode unexpectedly (and very loudly), I became afraid to turn on the machine. What can I say? I'm a chicken.

Now that I've been doing a lot more decorative stitching, I want access to all those fancy stitches I could be stitching out on my Elna Supermatic. So, I decided to disconnect that pesky capacitor. Even after examining wiring diagrams, though, I wasn't sure if disconnecting one wire from the terminal would be enough. And I wanted to make sure that no more power is running through the capacitor.

It has six wires: three on the top, three on the bottom. Only two are easily accessible from the bottom of the machine. Space is tight around the motor inside this machine, and I couldn't see where the rest of the wires were connected. After some disassembling last night, I found I couldn't get the machine apart because two of the screws holding the top and bottom half together were really stuck. Then this morning, it occurred to me.

I have one of these. So I used it, and a flashlight, to see around the motor. I could finally see where the three top wires, and one bottom wire were soldered--none were attached to the power supply.

So I cut out the two white wires from the bottom. I should probably mention at this point that  the machine was unplugged and any remaining charge in the capacitor had plenty of time to dissipate. As you can see, one of the wires is discolored. This is the wire that was attached to the part of the capacitor that was melting away.

And this is what the inside looks like now. When I first plugged it back in, it ran on it's own, and I was sure I had just made matters worse. However, when I took the bottom of the machine off again, I noticed I forgot to put the spring back on the peg. See it dangling there at the top of the photo? It supports the weight of the knee lever, and keeps it from running the machine until it's pushed.

I put it back, and the knee lever worked correctly again. After that, I did an hour or two of sewing, stitching out some cam samples, playing with the tension, and some of the feet. There was no more sizzling noise coming from the machine. I didn't electrocute myself. Nothing exploded, or caught on fire. So--I would call this project a success! And (bonus) my Kenmore circular decorator fits this machine--just imaging the possibilities. I'm glad I can use my Supermatic again. :~)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hemstitching and the Wing Needle

I've just learned to hemstitch this past week, and I couldn't be more excited. I first learned of hemstitching while trying to repair a vintage sewing machine: an Elna Supermatic that I picked up at a local consignment store for thirty-five dollars.

I had purchased a set of special stitch cams for it from a seller on eBay, and was trying out the number 101 cam, also known as the Turkish Hemstitch (you'll see an example at the end). All I got was a pile of messy stitches, since the machine was out of adjustment. I was able to make the necessary adjustments with a little help from my friends at the Yahoo! group, elnaheirloomsewing (thanks again Jim). When I saw the resulting stitch, I had no idea what such a stitch would ever have been used for.

Still not really fully understanding what hemstitching was for, I put it out of my mind for a while. However, after hearing the term in several other places, and since I absolutely have to know how things "work," I finally did some research. I did a Google search for images of hemstitching, and after a few pages of photos, I knew I had to learn to do it.

If you have never heard of hemstitching (as was the case for me), it sounds like a utilitarian term for garment making. However, it is a decorative embellishment that employs a wing needle, and certain stitch patterns to create a sort of lacy or eyelet effect. It certainly can (and is) used in garment making as an embellishment, but it can also be used to embellish any number of other sewing projects. There is very simple hemstitch on my store-bought pillow cases, for example. See those little holes in the fabric? That's hemstitching.

So what do you need to get started?

You need a wing needle. I bought two--in two different sizes.

The larger needle is on the right (in both photos). The large fins of the wing needle spread the fibers apart as the material is pierced.

You also need the capability to do decorative stitches (or utility stitches) in which the wing needle will return to the same spot more than once. The more often the wing needle enters a hole that it's already made, the more defined that hole becomes.

Here's what I have available on one of my machines.

Only some of these stitches have hemstitch potential: 04, 09, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 23. 04 is the stretch stitch. Good for reinforcing seams in high strain areas of a garment (like the seat of your pants), and seaming stretchy fabrics (esp. knits), it produces a hemstitch like the one on the pillow case above. You may need to observe the way your machine performs each stitch in order to asses which stitches will work best for hemstitching. Or, you could just put the wing needle in and use the good, old fashioned, trial and error method.

Next come the materials. You need a natural fiber material, like cotton or linen, thread, and a lightweight, easy to tear stabilizer. I used Gutermann polyester embroidery thread--I like the added sheen for decorative stitching. I also like to use gift wrap tissue paper for stabilizer, among other things. It gives just enough support for this purpose, it's lint free, and it tears away easily.

I had some leftover polka dot gift wrap tissue already sitting out, which was fine for my practice session, but I recommend plain white. That way, if you do have any leftover bits under any of your stitches, you won't see it through your fabric (esp. an issue with lighter colored fabrics).

For best results, pre-wash your chosen fabric, spray starch, and press.

Now that you have your materials gathered, let's get started. Install the wing needle in the needle clamp of your machine the same way you would any other needle. Choose the stitch you want to sample, but don't thread your needle yet.

Because the wing needle is so much wider than other needles, you'll need to slowly proceed through the stitch pattern to make sure the wing need doesn't strike or graze the needle plate. In the picture on the left, you can see that the right edge of the wing needle comes very close to the right side of the needle plate opening, but it doesn't actually touch. If the edge of your wing needle does touch either edge of the opening, lower the stitch width and test again.

Once you've established a "safe" width for the stitch, you can thread your needle, and attach the presser foot. I chose to use the satin stitch foot, which came with my machine.

The underside has a groove to discourage raised areas of stitching from catching on the underside of the foot.

The fabric and stitches do become a bit raised in hemstitching, and if the material were to catch on the bottom of the foot, the stitch length, and therefore the pattern, would be uneven.

Okay--so you've done all the prep work. Let's get stitching. Place your material under the presser foot, and away we go!

If your material is on the thin side, and/or getting pushed down into the needle plate, put your lightweight stabilizer under the material. I used two layers of 205 thread count, 100% cotton muslin, and didn't need to use stabilizer. Here are some samples. By the way, stitching at a slow/medium speed will yield better results than a fast stitching speed.

Stitch 21 (on the far right), didn't work as well as the others on a double layer of material. It's still pretty, but it looks better on a single layer, using the stabilizer. Experiment. Play. Find out which of your machine stitches work best, on what materials, and under what circumstances. From left to right: stitch 12, 23, 20, 21. Below: stitches 13, 14.

You can double up two rows of stitching to make a wider pattern. Watch your machine perform the stitch pattern, and determine the best place to stop the needle.

On the left, you see stitch 20. Since I placed my next row of stitching to the left of this line, I stopped my needle on the right (needle up), just before it could take the last (right-most) stitch--represented by the pencil marked dot on the bottom right. When I started my next row of stitching, I placed the needle in the left-most, top hole (shaded a bit with pencil). See the picture below.

Now you have to watch the needle as you stitch. Stitch slowly, making sure that each right-most stitch of the new line of stitching continues to enter each left-most hole of the previous line of stitching. Did I lose you? Just give it a try, and you'll see what I mean. To begin with, it's a little bit challenging, but it can be done. And it does get easier. On this machine (with this presser foot) I lined up the left-most holes of the first line of stitching with the slit in the foot (just in front of the needle, in the picture below).

Repress your urge to guide the material, and let the machine do all the work. Your job, at this point, is to watch, and only make minor adjustments when necessary. If the weight of the material is preventing even feeding, you can make a little hump in the material just ahead of the presser foot. This works well with lighter fabrics, that bend easily.

Notice that it is just a slight hump--just enough to support the material, but not so much that you're "pushing" the material. Use a very light hand.

Here's what it looks like. Doubling up the stitch patterns gives you a much different look. You can also try stitching two different patterns side-by-side. The possibilities are endless. Get creative!

And once you've got it down, start embellishing your projects. I used hemstitching and a touch of lace to make a decorative edge on a plain, white pillow case. The stitches you see below are 04 and 14 on my machine.

And here it is--the stitch that started it all--the Turkish Hemstitch, on white, 100% Linen.

Oops! It's a little wavy. I stitched this sample on my vintage Kenmore 1802, and the feed feels different than on my new machine. I was probably guiding the material too much, instead of letting the machine do it's thing, but you get the picture.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. Spend an afternoon or evening with your machine and give it a try. Once you've learned to do it, you'll be thinking of all kinds of projects you can embellish with hemstitching.