It feels like it has been a long time coming and I know that I still have a way to go. Nevertheless I cannot help feeling that I have crossed a personal rubicon this evening. I have finished piecing the log cabin quilt top.
The top is now 42 inches wide and 56 inches long. I think this will be a decent size for a cot plus a little bit of growing space.
I finished the borders on the Singer 201K. I am still quite new to the treadle but I managed the long seams reasonably well. The large level workspace is a bonus. I only had one sticky moment when I upset the apple cart by letting the machine run backwards. Result? - Great wads of top thread knotting up on the underside of the work - this is to be avoided. I had to stop, cut the work from machine and unpick the mess before I could continue.
So now it is time to think about putting the 201K to bed for a little while and introduce the Singer 401G. That's the machine I am going to use to straight-line quilt this project. But for now I think I've earned a beer.
Sunday, 7 April 2013
Tuesday, 5 March 2013
"This cabinet is beautifully finished and, when closed, presents no suggestion of a sewing machine."
So said Singer when they were still trying to sell them. It is actually quite a good design and, although mine isn't in as new condition, it is well put together and the quality of the quarter cut veneer is as good as any mid 20th century factory made furniture I've seen. This one had been standing in a puddle in an out building when I collected it. It was cold and damp and had started to go mouldy and although the polish has flaked in places the carcass and veneer are basically sound. I let the cabinet gently dry out in an unheated room over the first few days of ownership. I haven't tried to wax it because I haven't decided whether I am going to strip and refinish part or all of the outside yet.
Here is the cabinet with both doors open revealing the treadle and flywheel. The polish on the inside is still sound and I wouldn't dream of messing with it. The box mounted on the inside of the left door is great. It's amazing how many attachments, bobbins, scissors, seam rippers and so on one can cram in there. The brown paint on the treadle irons is near perfect as is the rubber mat.
Nestling tantalisingly in the cabinet is the 201K. The top of the cabinet folds out to form a work surface which rests on the left hand cabinet door. This picture shows some of the battle scars the the cabinet has collected over the years very well.
There is strong-looking coil spring in the back of the cabinet which helps to counterbalance the weight of the machine when lifting it into the operating position. Venus approves of the large level working space to the left of the needle.
This 201K has the Plain-Jane "paper clip" decals and Johnny-Come-Lately striped face plate. It's all restrained elegance from post-war Kilbowie and I love it!
The serial number on this machine is from a batch allocated in 1950. Funny to think my 28K was already 50 years old when this 201K was brand spanking. I must admit that I do like the way the chrome really sparkles on this one. Amazingly it's none the worse for having been stored in a leaky shed.
I include this picture of the machine lying in the well of the cabinet to show the striped access plate which matches the face plate and the round bracket fixed behind it. This must have been where the Singerlight attached to the machine. How handy would one of those be now?
All I've really done here since getting the machine is clean, oil, recalibrate the tension indicator plate and fit a new bobbin tire. Rolls Royce sewing for less than the price of a yard of Liberty lawn tell that to a Viking Rep! Having been used to the 28K the 201K is a revelation. It really has to be heard to be believed. Sew quiet! The belt has started to slip a tiny bit since the machine became acclimatised to the sitting room but I've yet to pluck up the courage to shorten it. I am paranoid about making it too short and straining the bearings.
So far I've sewed a hobo bag for my mate Steph on the 201K and a patchwork cushion cover for T-M-B but I am looking forward to doing lots more with it. I really want to try and make a shirt for myself one day soon.
Monday, 25 February 2013
Now that the Singer 15K80 is clean, lubricated and forming acceptable stitches my thoughts return to some of the things which make this machine feel a little odd to me.
The first is probably going to be the easiest to sort out. Look at this:
Notice how slender and wonky the upper spool pin is? I think that this is because it's not a spool pin at all!
A nail maybe?
The "spool pin" is loose and was easily lifted out of the top of the machine. This is an impostor! It's actually a pretty rough piece of steel standing in the place of a spool pin. Oh well. I guess it shouldn't be too difficult to pick up a genuine part like the nice stout straight one below the bobbin winder. I think I will have to check out that well known on line auction site.
There's something else. It's not so easily spotted and maybe something the machine and I will have to persevere with for the moment at least. I will try and show you.
If you look closely at this overhead shot of the balance wheel and hand crank you may notice that the decals on the machine bed and pulley guard do not match those on the top of the hand crank. In use it soon becomes apparent that the fit of crank in the spokes of the balance wheel isn't great either. If anything it's rather loose. I have the feeling that the crank is from an older machine a 27 maybe?
Well we all know that vintage machines get modified don't we? So... I wonder did this machine start life as a hand crank and get separated from the original somehow? Was this the result of conversion to an electric motor? Perhaps this unit started life in a treadle? Does anyone know if the answer to this mystery lies in serial number records?
When I first brought this machine home I had a vague idea that I might somehow use it for free-motion quilting. There's a lot of chat on line about how great Singer 15s are at that kind of work. I know that the 15K80 lacks dropping feed dogs but I have read that this isn't too much of a handicap if the stitch length is set to 0 stitches per inch. However I would still need to loose the hand crank on this particular example or try growing a third arm! I wonder if it would fit in the treadle cabinet that my 201K came in.
Sunday, 24 February 2013
The 15k80 was clean and lubed so the time had come to see how it sews.
I mentioned yesterday that I am new to the 15 class but with the help of various down loads I have now educated myself as to how these machines should be threaded top and bottom.
Three bobbins came with the machine. I used my smallest screwdriver to adjust the sloppy bobbin case.
I had disturbed the top tension earlier because I had taken the tension unit apart to check the face of the tension discs for lint, dirt and rust before threading and somehow the tension on the bobbin case seemed a bit "free" to me. With these things in mind I was not expecting great stitches from this machine.
In my first attempt the top tension was too great and the bottom tension too little. Result: little bumps of bobbin thread on the top of the goods and a wonky line of stitches. I wasn't keen to muck about with the bobbin case at this stage so I backed off the tension for a few turns until the bumps nearly vanished. I got to the stage where I couldn't feasibly back the top tension off any further so threw caution to the wind and tightened the screw on bobbin case a quarter turn. A little more playing and these are the most recent results.
This is a piece of old shirt cuff left over from a quilting project. So the machine is sewing through two layers of fine cotton and a layer of interfacing. It may not be very easy to see but the stitches (approx 15 per 1 inch) are locking in the middle of the fabric sandwich and the row feels smooth to the touch on both sides. By George I think we've got it!
Saturday, 23 February 2013
I used sewing machine oil and cotton wool balls to clean and polish the black japanning and gold decals. Just a little oil gently lifts the muck and imparts a little shine and I am careful not to rub the decals too hard. The general condition of the finish is really quite good. One or two chips on the leading edge of the machine bed but nothing I won't be happy to live with.
Sweet Bird of youth. Sorry about the camera shake I am still learning.
I use the same technique on the bright metal. The throat and slide plates are as new but the rim of the balance wheel is less than perfect.
Underneath wasn't too mucky but bone-dry. When was the last time this one saw oil? I took the throat and face plates off and cleaned the feed dogs and presser and needle bars with an old toothbrush.
At this point, clean but not yet oiled, the machine turned freely but did not resemble the the smooth, quiet running, machines other sewers have described on their blogs. I am new to Singer 15s so I wasn't sure what to expect. My 201k whispers along the seams and hems but this 15 clattered. I have read comparisons of the 201 with a Rolls Royce. If my 201 is a Rolls then this 15 is a Model T Ford.
Now I love sewing machine oil. It's like Doctor Good for machines. When I oil a bone dry machine like this one I feel like I am working a little miracle. I go right over the machine from slide plate to hand crank and from spool pin to shuttle looking for any points at which metal bears against metal and apply no more than a drop or two of oil. Then I have the pleasure of:
"run[ning] the machine rapidly for a few moments (with the presser foot up) to work the oil into the bearings"
That's one of my favourite bits. Listening to the machine becoming quieter and actually feeling it become smoother in operation. In a matter of seconds the clattering is more like clicking and hey presto this sewing machine is running like a sewing machine. The 15 is not as quiet as the 201. I don't think I would expect it to be. The design of the 201 is about 50 years younger than that of the original 15 after all. I would say that this machine is now maybe just a shade quieter than my 28k. Any 15 aficionados who can confirm this as a sign of good health please drop me a line.
By the way anyone thinking of recommissioning a neglected machine should make this excellent video by Lizzie Lenard compulsory viewing. One can learn a lot from that wise lady!
Friday, 22 February 2013
Just look at what followed me home today.
That's right dear reader. It's a shabby blue box. Or is it? Take a closer look.
The lid is off the shabby blue box and we see a shabby black sewing machine. A Singer 15k80 complete with dust (can you see the finger marks?) and hot pink thread (so not my colour). Now this machine, like most of us over thirty, would appear to have a story to tell and as I look more closely at it I am starting to think that if this "Singer" could sing it would be hymns ancient and modern.
My first impression of this machine: black enamel, gold "RAF" decals and thumb screw stitch length control (no back tack or dropped feed dogs here) make me think old. Late 1930s or immediate post-war? All right not that old in the world of sewing machines but a respectable vintage.
BUT just look at that case though! This machine should be in a bentwood or a faux croc skin case shouldn't it? Then again that blue case looks very non-Singer to me and I can imagine that this is some kind of replacement. I think, however, that this machine may be more youthful than I first believed. The striped face plate makes me think she is nearer sixty than seventy. So what... 1950 maybe? But look at this:
Note the plate with the model designation. This looks more like the sort of thing one might find on a slant-o-matic or 185k. I can wait no longer and look up the serial number. The internet-o-graph tells me that the serial number was allocated in 1957! WOW I never imagined that Singer would have been able to sell a machine like this as late as that. Straight stitch and in one direction only. Just think about what else was on offer at that time. So this is a rock and roll stitcher rather than jazz or swing. That might just explain the blue vinyl case. I would be really glad to hear from anyone else who has experience of late 15ks and the kind of cases they can be found in.