Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Vintage Sewing Machines

I wanted to share something I composed a bit ago as a reply to someone in a facebook group about using these old machines and how to get started looking into buying and using one for bag making or sewing in general. My best advice, is to do some research, know ahead of time what model(s) of machines you are interested in as Singers come in many styles. There are also many wonderful other brands of machines as well. If you want to own say two, one main machine for straight stitch and a backup machine, then this really is worth the investment of time to learn about them.

I have both a Singer 15-91 and a 201-2, as well as a Red Eye (66) and a adorable 99 in a bentwood case. You have to think, what are your goals, do you just want a couple? Or you planning on collecting? If you want 1-2 main machines, if they move freely, have at least some kind of accessories and possibly the manual, it's well worth $150-$200 for a solid vintage machine, that you can sew with for another 20+ years. Often at garage sales you can score a vintage machine for much less. Plastic machines will be a headache and not worth the money in the long run. These old machines were not meant to be disposable. They were meant to be repaired and serviced by the women and men who relied on them back in the day.

When I got back into sewing my mom offered me her Necchi Supernova and it's a fine machine. But it couldn't do the denim straps I needed for my fun upcycled denim jean bags. I joined a facebook group to learn all I could about these fabulous machines and how they work. Not only to figure out which one I wanted to look for, but also so I can encourage others to pick up the torch of admiration of sewing and the tools it takes to make beautiful things.

I mentioned my potted motor machines (the Singer 201-2 & my 15-91) as they are often the first ones a person will get after researching the models. The later slant needle models, the two toned really cool space age looking ones, those are cool and some use cams that offer neat decorative stitches. So think about what you want from your journey in to the world of vintage machines. You can come to that huge open facebook group and get help from members to get through most any problem you can have with these old machines.

I recommend learning a little about them before making the plunge into buying one. Know the parts of a machine, like some have drop in bobbins, like class 66 metal bobbins, and some use a bobbin case that clicks in. I just bought a Kenmore 158.1941 and it was missing not just the bobbin case, but also the hook, but I got a great price on it in a cabinet, and took a chance I'd be able to buy a replacement hook. Which I found, along with the bobbin case and it now runs great! My point is I've seen machines in shops that were missing parts and you can't always replace them. For instance the tension assembly, if that is missing, you should check online before buying the machine, that you can get a replacement. But I was able to install my machine's new hook and had it sewing within ten minutes, most of that was due to learning how to thread it and it's bobbin case.

That's the beauty of them, they were made to be simple and user serviced. I personally had to get both of these two models, my 15-91 was frozen solid, but with the members' collective knowledge and encouragement I got it moving again! It will sew again! I haven't made a bag on it yet, but I've made some nice hats and a couple of bags using Beastie, my 201-2. Biggest thing is not to shy away from asking for help or questions. That's the only way to learn and gain confidence in using and servicing your own machines. If the one you are looking at is missing the pedal, you can probably replace that or the bobbin cases, but be aware, the Singer 301's and Featherweight's bobbin cases are harder to come by, and if you want one, make sure those have their original cases. I've heard there are reproduction cases out there, but that quality and performance of them can be hit or miss.

Now if you're seriously talking bags are all you're interested in making, you might want to like get an industrial, they won't break down like a domestic machine will after a steady 'diet' of heavy fabrics or leather use. And make no mistake these singers I mentioned above are domestic machines. Here's a great post on a awesome blog about the differences between a domestic machine and an industrial. Many unscrupulous ebay sellers or craig lister use the term industrial when listing a domestic machine and it's so wrong.

I hope this was helpful and if you have any questions I do hope you'll ask them!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Handy Purse Organizer from SewCanShe

A friend found this great little free pattern on Craftsy and of course I just had to make one to match my Kennedy bag. It's the perfect size for moving between my old purse and my new Kennedy bag. But it wasn't all smooth sailing, as I'll show you. I blame my un-interfaced poly cotton blend fabric for the lining. So if you have a cotton poly you are planning on using for the lining I'd use at least some Pellon 911FF or some other light weight interfacing on the pieces.

You can get this free pattern on Craftsy here: Handy Organizer by SewCanShe

This was also my first time using binding, and that was challenging to say the least. I wouldn't call this a beginner friendly pattern because of the binding and also the welted zipper, which is where my biggest frustration with this pattern occurred. Here are my pieces and binding laid out so you can see everything. I did not do mesh pockets as I wanted the bag to look like a mini version of my Kennedy bag.

Everything up until the zipper pocket was smooth sailing as you can see here by the half finished sides of my organizer.

My hand basted zipper, both sides, I really believe it helps more than pinning one would, because pins distort the zipper tape.

And then here you can see where it will not cover the interfaced half of the side panel properly.

I made a patchwork and fixed it, figuring it is on the inside anywhere and didn't need to be perfect. I can totally live with this, although it's not pretty, it's completely functional and I blame the fabric and if I made one again I would interface it with at least Pellon 911FF.

My next issue was the gusset being just over an inch too long, and you can see I had to trim it down enough to be even with the rest.

Overall I enjoyed making this pattern, with the exception of the zipper pocket panel fixes I had to make, and the difficulty of handling binding for the first time, I liked it a lot. Here's some photos of it with the next stages with the binding.

And the pay off, the cute little organizer insert sitting next to, and then nested inside my Kennedy bag. Love it!

I don't think I'll need to make another one of these, but I would, and like I mentioned I'd interface the zipper lining pocket and use a heavier weight 100% cotton as the lining next time around. I hope you enjoyed reading about this little organizer and if you you make one I'd love to see it! Thanks for dropping by. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kennedy bag, free pattern from Sew Sweetness

I am so pleased with the way this bag came out. It's better than I imagined. It wasn't too hard to follow the instructions and I was able to take my time on each step. I also used some Peltex 71F ultra firm fusible stabilizer 2” smaller than my bottom exterior fabric, so it wouldn't be impossible to sew through, I just eliminated it from my seam allowance. I show a photo of that below as well as other stages of it being sewn.

My first step was selecting fabric, and printing out my pattern. I went with two quilting cottons, one for the lining and one for the accent fabric, and navy duck cloth. Once I had my pattern printed out, I made up the remaining pattern pieces myself, I like to cut with scissors, because I'm dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome and the spring loaded Fiskars seem to work easier for me right now than my rotary cutter.

Once all my pieces and interfacings were cut, I set about fusing everything to the right fabrics. I substituted Pellon 809 for the Shapeflex, and Fusible Fleece for the Soft and Stable and my bag came out just fine. I only used the Peltex 71F on the bottom, so it stands up nicely.

Here you can see the Peltex 71F fused on top of a layer of Pellon 809.

First thing to sew was the accent fabric for the flap and then I set the magnetic snap, and sewed my flap together.

Then I made and sewed down the corner accent pieces. Here is the finished flap on top of the outer main panel, just to show them off.

Next came the connectors and strap, I lightly glued the edges down on my strap, using a glue stick, before sewing it because my duck cloth seemed to be warped a bit, not sure how, but next time around I won't be pre-washing duck cloth, as I think it became warped when I was pressing and starching it to put back some body that pre-washing had taken out.

I inserted the welted zipper, sewed the divider pockets and finished my lining, then my bag, and then I was ready to assembled the bag. I think the hand basting I did on the zipper really made all the difference for me with the sewing. I wasn't happy with my machine's adjustable zipper foot, so I used this one that came with my vintage Singer 99, I think of it as the mitten foot because it looks like it's a mitten. I mostly used this presser foot to sew this bag, rather than my walking foot. It was great for top stitching.

And the finished bag! You can get this free pattern from Sew Sweetness on Craftsy. I enjoyed making it and I hope you will too!

Thanks for reading!