Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Love Your Curves and All your Edges...

Linking up with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts and Pretty Bobbin's I Quilt.
Add Ms. Midge who is hosing TGIFF this week.

I had a few setbacks like my cutting mishap with the Kona Snow and the distraction of a vintage Singer but the wedding quilt top is complete.  Since I have surpassed the goal I set for the Sew Bittersweet Design's August ALYoFs I get to join the party this month! Pretty sweet since I had to do the walk of shame for two month running.

I do have to admit that I don't have all the fabric yet. I decided to include more Lark variety on the back so I dropped a few more pieces into my basket with my Southern Fabrics Deal of the Day score on Tuesday. Technically I did make my goal because they have been purchased, just not received.

Now on to my distraction:

I have been in the process of turning my dining room into a dedicated quilting space this summer. I have reached the point in my quilting adventure where I need a dedicated space and the dining room fits the bill.

I decided to go yard saling this weekend to find a small table for my Huskylock to perch on.  I was hoping to find a typing table or small sewing table that I could push my chair under when I want to do a repair or clean up the edge of a quilted sandwich before I bind. Lately I've been moving it around a bunch. Sometimes to use and others just to get it out of the way.

I did an online search and planned my yard sale loop. The last stop listed an "antique sewing machine." Hmmm, interesting. maybe it's a Featherweight? I'll have to check.

Early in my loop I saw a little traditional cherry table under a microwave and the conversation went something like this:

Is that for sale?
How much? (open little drawer and see that it is marked Pennsylvania House)
Five bucks?
I'll take it.

I have a confession...I prefer well made newer reproductions to antique wood furniture. I find that the really old stuff has an acidic smell that turns me off.

It looks like a bedside table to me. A bit traditional for my taste but I figured if I don't like it inside it will look adorable in an eye popping color on the expansive wrap-around front porch of my farmhouse style home.  Inside or out, it is getting a paint job.

I buy nothing more before I get to that last address. No machine. I inquire. Oh good, it is upstairs and I'm the first to ask.

She shows me a small sewing cabinet and I am instantly smitten with the mid-century lines and little strip of chrome on the bottom edge. I wasn't expecting a cabinet but I could picture my Huskylock perched neatly on top of it and I kiss the idea of finding a Featherweight goodbye. As far as I know 221/222s only come in a carrying case.

The cabinet is empty so I inquire about the machine expecting it to be one of those old zigzag machines with a bunch of cams. Instead she pulls out this curvy black model with gold decals that looks like it should sit on a wrought iron base.  It wears the iconic Singer decal.

The machine is frozen, the pedal cord was cut when she purchased it several years earlier, she doesn't know if it will run as she never got around to working on it. I fully understand, she has a two year old daughter, I've been there with boys. She gives me a price but I really only want the table so I snap a few photos and take her name and number. I'm having heartache about asking her to separate the pair.

When I get home the research commences and all of a sudden the machine takes center stage. The more I learn the more I'm interested. I find the cabinet. It is a Singer Model 74 made to compliment the new 301 model but able to accept other machines. I have a partial serial number and can affirm that the two were purchased as a pair in 1953.

My pictures are lame. I think its a 201. I put out a FB post on our guild's private site for some Singer guru advice. I quickly get hits. All positive. I text my offer. It gets accepted and I go pick up the pair.

I was hoping for some attachments but I only get a pdf copy of an owner's manual for a 15-91. Okay, it's not a 201.

I get it home, put my Huskylock on the table and assemble my tools to attack the Singer. Sewing machine oil, flathead screwdrivers, lint brushes, a towel to protect the table, a wash cloth, some pledge and, of course, my iPad. Simple tools for a simple machine. Later I would add a toothbrush and a toothpick.

Shortly into the process I realize that I do not have a 15-91, no potted motor, I have a 15-90! And that, my friends, is my final answer!

The plug and presser foot wires look very new so I have my hubby do a temp connection on the presser foot wire and we plug her in. The light comes on. I press the funny little button on the foot. Hmmmm. The motor is alive. No up and down motion of the needle. The thing is frozen. I flip through the manual and find the oiling section. This thing needs a lot of oil! I hit all the spots. The wheel starts to turn. I hit 'em with more oil. It frees up a bit more. I flip a page. There are more spots to oil. It loosens up some more. I flip another page and find out I'm not done oiling yet. I try the motor again and the needle bobs slowly up and down. She needs a new belt.

I thread her and hand turn a few lines of stitches. Beautiful.

I keep cleaning and oiling and I strip the motor off the machine and crack it open. The wires look pretty good, not as new as the external wiring but in good shape. The brushes are long. I put it back together and it still turns!

From looking at refurbishments and repairs on line I realize that this machine is not a "barn fine." She must have been serviced just before she went through her period of neglect. She was very clean, only a bit of lint around the bobbin and feed dogs and very little old oil varnish on her components. She was frozen from lack of oil and not gummed up.

I call my local sewing shops on Monday morning. I need three things: a belt, a bobbin winder tire and a set screw for the hinge that attaches the machine to the table. The first shop is no help at all. Branum's, on the other hand, bends over backwards to help me. I am able to score all three items and I pick up a big bottle of sewing machine oil with a long spout. The tech also tells me how to oil the motor. Something I could not find on line or in my 15-91 manual. The motor is what distinguishes a 90 from a 91.

I start a conversation with a saleslady I haven't seen before and find out that a MQG chapter was established in May! Bonus!!! I will be at the next meeting for sure.

Once home I oil my motor and the RPMs soar. I reinstall the motor and add all my purchased goodies and fire her up. The needle speed is excellent. I do some test sewing and decide to try out the bobbin winder.

I can see that there are several colors of thread on the bobbin. I remove about a foot of purple. Then the red and the black and the yellow, more purple, black again, gold, more black, light green and finally, white. No piece was more that about 5 feet long. It reminds me of how wasteful our generation has become. If I want a new color on a bobbin and I don't have an empty I look for one that is low or has an odd color on it and I unwind it and toss the tangle in the trash. It makes me a bit sad. I make a note to not shy away from winding thread on top of old thread on at least one of her bobbins.

I install the machine in the cabinet and hubby wires the longer piece of the pedal cord directly to the machine. I install the bakelite foot pedal in the bracket on the cabinet and now power is applied through the knee bar. She is home again. So cool.

Doesn't she look like my Grandma's sewing machine in my Mom's cabinet?

I had to do a couple more things after she took her rightful place in her cabinet. I realized I needed to oil the knee control. The bobbin winder just wasn't quite right. In the videos the users would push the little silver lever and it would click. Mine was not doing that. After inspection I saw another hole that looked like an oil hole. I added oil, messed around with it and all of a sudden it clicked. Now it winds a gorgeous bobbin.

For her maiden voyage I figure she needs to handle a retro project. I have one on my to-do list and I will share it when I get it done.

Thanks for reading about my new baby!

Linking up with Sew Bittersweet Design's August ALYoFs


  1. Love the Singer and the 2 tables and cannot believe you scored so big! I am amazed by your finds and also by your "owning it" - I found myself wanting to find an old machine and learn the innards like you did. Congrats on your perseverance.
    Reading your posts is like reading a good novel. :)

  2. Congratulations on your new machine and cabinet. Now that you have gotten to know her a little, have you chosen a name? Can't wait to see what you decide as your first project to piece on this! By the way... your wedding quilt top is fantastic!

    1. Sorry, I don't seem to name things. I do give them a gender. In the Singer's case I view the machine as a "she" and the motor as a "he." The cool thing about the belt driven 15-90 is that you can strip her of the motor and use her on a treadle base. So "she" does not need the "he" to function. She looks quite elegant without the motor. One photo above shows her stripped. Ooh-la-la, she looks good. Too bad I left the motor mount bolt in place.

  3. Oh my goodness, how beautiful!!! I love the older Singers, so classic!

  4. what an amazing find! I just love both pieces. The table is so different. The only thing is, they were both made at the same year, so both are your mom's sewing stuff! What a fun story you wrote!
    LeeAnna Paylor (Not afraid of color)

  5. Your quilt top looks great! And that machine, wow she's a beaut! And you've taken such nice care of her.

  6. the new machine looks fantastic, I'm so impressed that you cleaned it up and serviced it yourself. I have my grandmothers old singer (can't remember the model, but I did try to figure it out one day), I'm going to send her to a professional to service, because the wires look particularly dodgy.
    By the way, thanks for your comment on my blog, I couldn't reply directly to you because you are a no-reply blogger.

    1. That would be great to get another one up and running. I think I will end up using mine a lot. She tracks straight as an arrow. Thanks for the no-reply info. I just tried to fix it again.

  7. Your story was the perfect read to go with my morning coffee. Kindred Spirits!! I, too love to resuscitate old machines. My hubby used gun oil to help bring my old Featherweight back to life. I thought it had been dropped because the needle wouldn't go down into the throat plate, until it got cleaned. There is nothing to fear and everything to gain by investigating old gears and wires. Unplugged they ate totally safe. It is easy to look up a machine by serial # and find out the date it was made. I think nothing can piece a 1/4 inch seam like an old machine. LOVE