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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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Home Model NLR: One Dirty Machine

I just picked up this machine yesterday. It's a round bobbin rotary model.

You can probably already see how dirty it is, but just wait, there's more.

Just look at that chrome on the hand wheel--hardly any silver showing through. It's mostly a dark, sludgy brown. And I'm quite sure that those yellow metal parts should actually be silver.  By now, you may have noticed the greasy appearance of the black finish. The entire machine is positively caked with a greasy substance.What could it be? My first guess would be that it was stored in a smoker's home. There is a very slight odor, but it's not nearly strong enough to justify the gunk all over the machine.

Ironically, the box of rotary attachments that came with this machine are in pristine condition. They're silver, shiny, free moving (not a speck of rust anywhere), and appear unused--not a scratch to be seen on any of them.

Here's a view of the back. I just love the retro look of the light, though (from what I've read) this type of sewing machine light likes to get very hot. That lighter patch on the bed of the machine under the motor is the model number and serial number. It reads NLR117455. I still haven't tracked down a manufacturing date, but this model is very close in appearance to the more known model NLB, which was manufactured from approximately 1941-1953. Again, ISMACS to the rescue with the full manual. This is the first manual I've ever seen that details every piece of the tension assembly, should you ever need to adjust or replace the check spring (scroll down to page 8).

And this is the strangest motor pulley I've every seen. That's because it's covered in masking and electrical tape . . .

. . . I'm not sure why, since the rubber doesn't have any flat spots, and it's not dried out. The motor housing sits very close to the body of the machine. Maybe the tape was added to make more space between machine and motor? I guess I will find out as I clean this machine up and get it running again. In the photo on a right, a bit of electrical tape is still on the pulley, and the set screw is removed. Again--very dirty, and very greasy.

Here's a closeup of the .7 amp motor, and you can see just how close it sits to the body of the machine.

Here's the faceplate. I'll get into threading in a later post. I'll have to remove this to oil some moving parts, but again, the manual is very detailed in this respect, and will guide me through it. Why can't all user manuals be this way?

And here is the famous New Home Light Running greyhound trademark. Overall, this machine is filthy--and I love it, because, under all that filth, the machine looks like it's in remarkably good condition. I can't wait to share before and after photos in another post!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How To Thread a New Home Treadle Sewing Machine

Below you will find a picture tutorial for threading a New Home treadle sewing machine.If you've never threaded one before, the parts may look a bit foreign. You can see the names of the parts here. The names for parts shown in the manual will be capitalized.

1. Pass the thread between the Tension Spring and Cap using the slot (Thread Guide) pictured above. Unfortunately, with this type of tension mechanism, tension is not released when the presser foot is raised. As a result, the further you have threaded into the thread path, the harder it will be to pull extra thread. You may find it helpful to loosen the tension a bit using the thumbscrew (Tension Screw) you see above the first few times you thread. Otherwise, just pull extra thread length at the start of threading.

2. Slide the thread under the thread guide (Eyelet Spring) from this end.

3. Pass the thread through this hole in the Needle Bar, and allow the thread to lay in the groove below.

4. Pass the thread behind this loop (Staple on Face Plate). Hold the thread end in one hand, and using a pin or stiletto in the other, pull the thread through the loop, and around the hook shaped take-up lever (Hook of Take-up).

5. Lay the thread in this groove.

6. And thread the needle left to right. (The needle is inserted into the Needle Clamp flat side to the right). If you loosened the upper tension to start with, readjust it now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Home Light-Running Treadle: An Introduction

I've long been fascinated by the beauty of treadle sewing machines. Seeing one in a fabric store window has always been a treat. Who wouldn't admire all that ornate detailing? I was in no big hurry to find one of my own . . . until I saw one in action on an episode of Victorian Farm.

So here it is--my very first treadle!

And even thought the cabinet is in rough shape--this antique New Home is a beauty. As you can see, the finish has deteriorated. In fact, I can literally scrape parts of the finish off with a fingernail. It's darkened, crackled, and dirty, and in many places leaves the wood completely exposed and unprotected. I've already re-glued the coffin top, which had a massive crack in it.

These are the only accessories it came with besides the straight stitch foot, which came already attached, and which, for the moment, is stuck. That will get fixed.

There are a couple of extra long shuttle bobbins, and I love the little compartments in this top, center drawer.

And the drawer pulls on the six side drawers are very lovely.

 The machine itself is in decent shape. The decals are worn from use, there's some rust here and there, and the chrome on the hand wheel is almost completely worn away. However, everything moves freely, and after a belt replacement and a few drops of oil, it stitches just like it's supposed to. Here's a back view.

The decals on the back of the pillar are the least worn, and the colors and details can still be seen. I haven't cleaned them at all yet, and won't do so until I do a bit more research on how to clean without damaging or silvering them. I can only imagine how beautiful this machine must have been brand new. Now on to the practical stuff . . .

The "W" shaped contraption you see at the top is the tension spring--tighten the screw for more tension, loosen it for less tension. Simple. Effective. The disadvantage to this kind of tension control, however, is that it is completely independent of the presser foot. When the presser foot is raised, the tension spring is not disengaged, making it difficult to pull the work (and upper thread) out from under the presser foot without bending the needle. For this same reason, threading is a little less convenient on this machine.

Here's a closeup of the presser foot and needle bar. The presser foot screw is stuck, so it will get a dab of WD-40. When it comes to sewing machines, WD-40 is a big no-no because if left on the parts they can become more frozen than they were in the first place. Kroil is typically recommended in the Yahoo! sewing machine groups, but I don't have any on hand. Rest assured, I will get rid of the WD-40 by flushing the parts with oil once they have been loosened and removed.

Notice how the presser foot connects to the presser bar. So far, as far as I can tell, these are not easy feet to come by. They're the earlier style. The presser bar is completely round, the foot slides up onto the presser bar, and is secured with a set screw. Take another look at the picture of the accessories in the drawer above to see what the connecting part of a presser foot looks like when not on the presser bar. There aren't many feet for this machine that actually attach to the presser bar. Most of the accessories (almost all the hemmers and the tucker) actually attach to the bed of the machine with a thumbscrew.

Notice also that the needle bar is flat (interesting). The hole in the top of the needle bar acts like the check spring of a modern machine. The hook lower down on the face plate is the take-up.

Here you can see the bullet-shaped, vibrating shuttle under the front slide plate. It's still in good shape--no skipped stitches so far, except when I removed and reinstalled the needle. Turns out this machine takes longer needles than today's standard. One solution? Instead of pushing the needle up as far is will go (as is the usual practice) lower it a tad, tighten the screw, and give it a try. Repeat until you're no longer getting skipped stitches and/or broken top thread.

Here's a closeup of the bobbin winder--more on that later.

And below that, on the bed of the machine, is the stitch length selector--the higher the number, the smaller the stitch. This machine will do some seriously microscopic stitches. To get the smallest stitches balanced, you'll have to loosen the top tension. Adjust the stitch length by loosening the thumb screw and sliding it left or right as desired. This one was stuck.

 That's why the bar you see at the top of this photo is so nice and silver. I removed it and wiped it clean with sewing machine oil and paper towels. I also cleaned the channel it rests in with oil and Q-tips. The metal tab and screw that holds the bar in place should not be tightened all the way down, nor should it be terribly loose. Find a happy medium that keeps the bar securely in the channel, and yet allows it to slide freely. I also cleaned a lot of lint out of the shuttle area, the evidence of which you can see in the oil drip pan under the machine.

And here is a closeup of the hand wheel and clutch release (again, more on this later).

The serial number is printed on the front slide plate as well as a "Number of Cotton/Size of Needle" chart. According to ISMACS, the serial number dates this machine to 1891. You can see the New Home numbers list here.

Patent dates are printed on the rear slide plate, pictured below.

That's the end of this rather lengthy introduction to the New Home Light-Running treadle sewing machine. Threading and use tutorials will follow soon. If I've left anything else out, or you're having trouble reading any of the words on those ultra-shiny slide plates (which I had a heck of a time photographing without reflection), or if you just have some interesting historical or anecdotal tidbits for me, feel free to comment below!