Tag Archives: Sewing machine

All Machines All the Time (Part 2)

Domestic. Army.

(I promise more sewing posts, fewer machine posts, in the future!)

The Domestic Special—AKA the Army Machine

In breaking news, she sews! Yay! And my gawd, what a beautiful stitch it is, too. Nothing like the wannabe zig-zag of the White*. And fast. The only limit to the power is that the motor turns a rubber wheel which turns the flywheel, and this rubber wheel is old and hard and a bit worn down, so sometimes you need to give the flywheel a nudge to get it started. Presumably it’s possible to replace the little rubber wheel at some point. (Incidentally, the belt on my Featherweight slips similarly, so it should be adjusted or possibly replaced as well. Someday when I’m a little more secure about this vintage machine thing ;).)

Fortunately, she uses a standard needle, that goes in sideways, exactly the same as my Featherweight.

Except that the Featherweight threads right to left, and this one threads left to right. Which was a bit of a WTF moment, but we got past it.

In terms of functionality, it’s similar to the Featherweight. There’s a lever for the stitch-length/reverse, just like on the Featherweight (this one’s very stiff, though. I need to figure out if it’s possible to oil it.) The tension/threading apparatus is quite different, though—it has a lever, too, and there’s no disc to wrap it around. I figured it out, though! The system of threading is fairly sketchy—there’s a lot of places the thread is kinda left to do its own thing, and it rubs against the case of the machine in a number of places. On the other hand, the up-and-down-arm-part (the manual calls this the take-up) has a hole with a covered slot you can kind of floss the thread into, rather than just a plain hole like most vintage machines (of my acquaintance, which is admittedly limited). (My new Janome has kind of a slot in this as well, but the way the slot opens occasionally the thread slips out of it which can be a pain in the butt.)

I want to thank both Peter and Claire for suggestions of manuals and comparable machines. I actually tracked down a teensy bit of information about Domestic sewing machines here, and they have three different manuals. This is the one closest to my machine, although I think it’s a slightly newer (or perhaps just more expensive) version than mine as it has a tension dial rather than lever, and a slightly more advanced-looking stitch length mechanism. There’s no date on the manual, but the font looks sort of 50s to me (I know, so precise). I’m guessing late 40s or 50s for this machine—I’d be surprised if it was as late as 60s (but then, they were still making Featherweights through the 60s). Vintage aficionados care to weigh in?

Also, just because I’m obsessive that way, here’s more photos (in no particular order) of the various feet and attachments than you can shake a stick at. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Fortunately, most of these are covered in the manual…

*Toodling around on the yahoo wefixit group led me to this post about sewing machine stitch formation, which basically advocates stitch acceptance. I still think something’s up with the White, though, as the stitch is WAY more zig-looking than my other machines, even with the straight-stitch needle plate in place. That being said, it does a mean zigzag, so I’m not really complaining.

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All Machines All The Time!!! (Part 1)

Are you bored yet?

All shined up

Sorry to witter on (I LOVE that word, it’s not part of my native vocabularly but I am totally stealing it) about my new/old machines. I’ll get back to the actual, y’know, making stuff pretty soon.

With its very own bobbin case!

I swung by Sewing World a day or two after I brought the White home, and they did indeed have the kind of bobbin case I needed. For the low, low price of $14. Yup, half again what I paid for the bloody machine, and two to three times the online prices (although those would’ve had shipping added on. Thanks to everyone who made suggestions!). But it was in my paws instantly (as opposed to some random time in the next month) and supports my local sewing stores, yadda yadda. The manual is available for a download for another $10, which I may get around to shelling out at some point.

Anyway, with bobbin in hand I sat down to give her a basic clean. I’m no JillyBe with the full sewing-machine spa, although I wish I was. I just pulled the machine off her base, took toothbrush and kleenex and cleaned out the dust, broken needle bits, pins, and chunk of waistband elastic that were inhabiting it. Then I set to de-fuzzing all the bits of machinery I could easily reach. There was a moderate amount of lint, but not terrifyingly so (I’m sure my Janome was worse off when I took her in for her tune-up last summer). I oiled the moving bits—the previous owner(s) seems to have been fairly heavy on the oil, so there’s a fair bit of sticky residue, but that’s probably better than the alternative, right? More fuzz came out when I swapped the needle-plates to try out the straight-stitch, so I now feel like I have a pretty well-cleaned, well-oiled machine. That and a bit of judicious adjustment of the bobbin tension, and the stitches have improved to the point where the straight and plain zig-zags are almost as good as my Janome’s, although the straight stitch still has a bit of zig or twist to it or something, even using the straight-stitch plate. This is why people love their straight-stitch machines, folks.

Stitches and zigzags and buttonholes, oh my!

While playing with the various fancy stitches and figuring out how to do a 4-step buttonhole (not so hard as I’d feared, especially on plain cotton 😉 ), I determined that the main issue she has is that the reverse stitches aren’t the same length as the forward stitches. The reverse (left) leg of the buttonhole is a long, loose zig-zag if I let the feed dogs do as they will, while the forward leg makes a perfect satin-stitch. (My Janome has a similar issue, although not this extreme) In a buttonhole you can compensate for that by man-handling your fabric, but it also affects the neatness of the fancy stitches. I’m not sure if this is something a tune-up would fix (I’m not super keen to give my $10 machine a $100 tune-up…) or if it’s just something I have to live with. Further sleuthing around the sewing-machine-repair sites/groups may be in order.

The feet that came with her are fairly basic—straight stitch, narrow hemmer, standard zig-zagger, wide-toed zig-zagger. There is this adjustable zipper foot with quilting guide (I’m as confused as you)

zipper foot with quilting guide

And this teensy little guy. I thought it was some kind of quilting foot, but the plastic bit on the bottom is textured and makes it really hard for fabric to move underneath it, so I’m kinda at a loss about how it should work.

Weird little foot

bottom of weird little foot

So that’s where she stands, folks. I’m going to be trying my hand at (ulp) applique again fairly shortly here, and I think I’ll use this machine as the zig-zags seem a little nicer than my Janome’s.

I'm scared. Are you?

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Yup, I officially have a problem

Look what followed me home...

Hello, my name is Tanit-Isis, and I have a thrift-store sewing machine problem. I made it one whole week without buying a machine.

The evil masterminds at Value Village had this out to tempt me. What really put it over the top is the little box of accessories—hemmers! binders! RUFFLERS! not shown in the picture because it was in my hot little hands waiting to be pawed through. Also, it has its bobbin-case and everything in place.

Wish me luck. The motor runs and things go up and down, but I’m not convinced I can even thread this one. I’ve found threading diagrams for older Domestic models but none exactly like this.

Tyo has dubbed it the “Army Sewing Machine,” and despite giving me well-deserved crap when I showed it to her, spent the rest of the evening opening it up and cleaning it out. Perhaps I can train her to be my very own personal sewing machine mechanic?

I got a new bobbin case for the White, as well. I’ll give an update on her pretty soon.

This has to stop. Now.

Unless a nearly-new, fully-functional serger or coverstitch shows up, anyway…

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How much is that bobbin case in the window?

Reckless seamstress behaviour

Hello. My name is Tanit-Isis, and I have a problem with sewing. It’s been 15 minutes since I last sewed a stitch…

So, I just did a slightly reckless and potentially self-destructive thing.

I was at the thrift store tonight (killing time during Syo’s dance class). The supply of fun vintage notions that kept me entertained over most of last winter seems to have dried up (I hypothesize that it was all part of one big stash) and I’m trying to be good on the fabric front, and the patterns have been abysmal since they purged a bunch before Hallowe’en. But as I wandered in a half-hearted manner through the electronics section (and there are few things sadder than a thrift store electronics section, I have to say) I realized that there were, not one, but two sewing machines.

Ah, you see where this is going.

The first machine, a middle-aged Kenmore, didn’t thrill me. I was unenthused by a Kenmore as a child (yes, I was a Pfaff snob at the age of nine). But the other caught my eye.

First, there was the blue. A splash of colour on a vintage machine always warms the heart. The price, $10, didn’t hurt. The visual depiction of 24 stitches across the top showed a nice array including plenty of pretty decorative ones that my almost painfully basic Janome doesn’t have, as well as proclaiming her a “White Super Deluxe Sewing Machine.”

There were the two mysterious boxes tucked under the harp arm—accessories! Now I was really getting excited.

I am not a complete rube. I have been around the vintage-sewing-machine block before (possibly even twice). I ducked around the shelves until I located a plug-in and plugged the machine in. Hesitantly, I gave the pedal a squeeze.

Whirr! Motor purrs (and doesn’t sound bad, actually). Needle goes up and down!

Sold. I slapped the carrying-cover back on and sauntered off to the checkout.

Machine footies!

Ensconced with my prize in the car (but still killing time), I dove eagerly into the accessories. A modest but nice array of feet, including several kinds I don’t have. They are low-shank feet, the same as my other two machines, which is nice. Most niftily, there’s a separate straight-stitch throat plate. (Also, the feed dogs drop! This is my first machine with drop-able feed-dogs. They have three settings, down, low, and high.)

Cams

The second accessories case turned out to house the cams for all those fancy stitches. Good thing they’re there! I would’ve been seriously choked to discover the machine could only do straight-stitch because the cams were gone.

No manual. Ah, well. I’m sure I can find one online if I need it.  And no spare bobbins.

It occurred to me to wonder what kind of bobbins the machine might use. After a bit of fiddling, I figured out how to slide back the metal panel that covers the bobbin area.

And discovered just why the machine was probably at the thrift store in the first place.

Bobbin housing---empty

No bobbin.

No bobin case, either.

Um.

So it looks like I’m going to be hunting for the bobbin case for a White 967. Presumably they can be found. I’m guessing eBay*, though I’ll check if my local sewing-machine/repair/expensive scissors crack-store deals in Whites.

So here’s the thing. Looking at the bobbin housing (y’know, the part where the bobbin case fits into), I thought it looked pretty much exactly like my Janome’s. So, being an experimental kind of girl, I pulled out the bobbin case from my Janome and popped it in the White.

It fits. I don’t know if it fits perfectly, but it works.

Stitches!

So I got to test out my new machine after all. I will still need another bobbin case, since having to switch it back and forth between machines pretty much defeats the purpose of having two machines, but in any case. Stitches are formed. Fabric moves around (once I remembered to raise the feed dogs). I won’t say they’re the best stitches I’ve ever seen, and I still have hardly pushed the envelope on how the cams work (though I did figure out how to switch them in and out properly.) Not to mention I haven’t done any of the basics like cleaning out the lint and oiling. But at least she sews.

So if three makes a collection, I now officially have a collection of sewing machines. Oops. I can’t help feeling like I’ve crossed some invisible threshold… that now my sewing machines will begin multiplying, until my sewing-room is overrun with archaic, half-functional machines and my husband leaves me because he can’t stand their looming presence spilling out into the basement…

Ahem. I got a new machine!

*After I wrote this, about 30 seconds on eBay determined that “Kenmore White” bobbin cases that at least look right can be had for under $10. Should be doable.

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My birthday came early.

20110702-084826.jpg

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