It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Vintage Singer Love - How I Clean 'em Up (The Basics)

I posted about the 3 vintage Singers that followed me home a couple of weeks ago; now I thought I'd give a  step-by-step of how I do a basic clean up on one of the full-size ladies.   My techniques have been gleaned from research at places like the Yahoo Vintage Singers group,  David McCallum's Featherweight DVDs & books, various posters at Pattern Review, and lots of experimentation on the old machines that have found their way to my house.  Some of those experiments were not so successful - like rubbing your machine down with Gojo = epic fail, or dunking an entire machine in a tub of kerosene = epic waste of time, energy and $$$  (yes, people actually DO recommend those techniques!).   Folks do have their own favorite products & methods; what follows works for me. :-)

Here's Gabrielle - the machines belonged to a French woman, so they all got French names.  (....yes, of course I name my machines.   Don't you?).  She's the 1926 66 as she looked when she came in the door.   Well, actually, this is after I removed her from her treadle cabinet, which needs way more refurbishing than she did, but that's another story....
She really wasn't too bad - lots of dust, a little rust, a few scratches & some grimey areas, hand wheel was sticky, but I saw no serious issues, and the decals were really in very good shape.   And hey, it's a treadle!  A totally mechanical workhorse - not even any electrical wires to give concern!  It's hard to find an unfixable surprise with one of these beauties :)

Here are the tools of the trade that I use:
Start with an old towel or cloth as your work surface.
Then, clockwise from left:
  • OXO Brite (the way cheaper version of OxyClean) to clean up the metal bits. 
  • Maguiar's Scratch X - Fabulous first step to remove those fine scratches and built up grime.
  • A good Carnauba Wax
  • WD-40 - Good cleaner for the gears & moving metal bits inside the machine (more about this later)
  • Sewing Machine Oil.  
  • Rags
  • Sewing Machine Lube (Necessary for a machine w/ a motor - I didn't use any on this one)
  • Screw Drivers.  
  • Other ingredients that didn't make it into the pic:  Q-tips, small cleaning brush, tweezers, little bowls to hold all the little bits as you remove them, a camera or piece of paper to document any parts you dismantle until you know by heart which little spring & screw goes where, a good non-scratch Metal Polish, and a good manual for whatever machine you're working on.
By the way, even if you have the original manual for your machine, go check this site out for great, picture-heavy service manuals.   I have all of the info printed out for every model I own, and it is indispensable!:  Tools for Self Reliance  I seriously can't recommend this site highly enough!

Here's Gabrielle's gorgeous spoked hand wheel - there's something about these old spoked wheels - I just love them! :

OK, let's get started!   Step one is to dust her off - you can even do a wipe down with some gentle dish soap if you have a really grimy baby on your hands.   I then go straight to the metal bits, & start removing them.   USE THE RIGHT SIZE SCREWDRIVER.  Sorry for shouting, but this is how screws get stripped - make sure your screwdriver slot is a match for the slot in the screw - life will be so much easier if you just get into the habit of doing this right off the bat.   Need I add the infamous phrase "Ask me how I know?" ;D  Oh, and a note about vintage Singer screws:   each one is unique & unusual, and you will NOT find a replacement in a hardware store.  In fact, the only place to find a replacement for a missing screw is off another vintage Singer.   Translation: do NOT lose your screws!

I usually start by simply removing the bobbin cover plates.   What you find under here will tell you a lot about how well the machine was maintained.  Remove any threads & fluff that you find with your tweezers & brush.  I give this area a good blast with WD-40 & let it do its thing with all the gunk that is invariably built up here.   Then I'll wipe it down, removing any excess WD-40.
A note on WD-40:  This is is NOT a substitute for SM oil, but it is perfectly safe to use on your metal parts.   It's an excellent cleaner - just don't get it on any rubber bits, & wipe up any excess.

Once I have the bobbin area cleaned, I'll start removing all of the other metal parts.

Remove the hand wheel by unscrewing the chrome disc in the center.

There are a number of different bobbin winder types.  If you have one that looks like this, PROCEED WITH CAUTION!   There are a few types that have a spring which will fly across the room as soon as it's released.   When it does this, go find it (You're doing this in daylight, right?)  Then curse a bit when you realize you have no clue just how, exactly, it fit into the slots & holes that it just sprang out of.   Don't worry, you'll figure it out.   Eventually.

Can you see the little spring just behind that forked bit?   The bit that looks like cute lil bunny ears (but is really devil's horns in disguise?)   That's the spring I'm talking about.   Just so's you know....

Here are the removed metal pieces, which are ready for their spa soak.  Face plate, back plate, bobbin cover plates, tension parts (this is another section to document as you dismantle it, and/or have good manual pictures to follow), the hand wheel parts, and lots of little screws.   I kept all of the bobbin winder parts completely separate in this case.

Plop some OXO Brite into a bowl that's large enough to hold all of your metal bits, (JUST the metal bits...don't add anything that has lacquer.....and, um.....don't ask me how I know about that one either.....), add boiling water, then let your metal bits soak for 10-20 minutes.

Remove the metal bits, rinse them THOROUGHLY, then dry them - THOROUGHLY.  If you do this with SM feet (I do) or anything with tiny crevices that might hold moisture, I suggest using a hair dryer to make SURE they are COMPLETELY dry.   You know how rust happens?   

Now is a good time to go over the show pieces (face plate, etc.) with some metal polish.   Although the OXO does a pretty thorough job, if your machine is really old, the metal polish will give it that extra oomph.  

All shined up!


While everything is soaking, you can go after the gears & moving parts.  I clean up any really filthy, gunky parts with WD40.  (Don't forget to dry it well)  Then start feeding.  :)   Follow your manual instructions regarding the oil spots, but mostly it's common sense.   Just feed a drop of oil (just a drop - don't overdo it....) to any area that has moving parts that rub against each other.
Under the machine:
On top:

Inside the face plate:

Turn your wheel & feel & listen as everything starts to loosen up & glide - such a gratifying feeling!

Now it's time to start with the massage portion of the spa treatment :)   Bring out the Scratch X, & put a small dollop on your massage cloth (this is where my old tshirts live out their life):
Now, gently (don't rub hard) massage the cream on to the lacquer.   Do this on small portions at a time - maybe half the bed (or less, depending on how dirty your machine is.   Don't let the cream dry, & don't do it for too long.   This isn't scary stuff, but you can overdo it.   (I took it to its limits on a machine I knew would need a total repaint job, just to see what the limits are -- you can rub TOO hard, and you can rub too long, but it really did take some elbow grease to overdo it)   Just treat it like a gentle face cream that you don't want to use too much of, and you'll be fine.   Don't rub too hard on the decals.  Wipe it completely dry, give it a good rub to bring out the shine,  and move on to the next section.   One treatment is enough - you'll never need to do it again.

 After the Scratch X Treatment - looking pretty good!:

Next step is your wax job.   I like doing 2 (or maybe 3) coats, with thin layers of wax.   Apply wax with a soft cloth, let it dry, rub it down well.    Ahhhhh........... now you can REALLY feel and see the difference!

Put all of her jewelry and make-up back on, and she's ready to roll!
For comparison:


Now, I just need to get a new treadle belt, clean up the cabinet, move her into her working spot, and get treadling!   I'm a bit torn about whether or not to wait until I have the time & energy to refinish her cabinet, or if I should just give it a basic cleaning so that I can get started sooner - I think I won't be able to wait....

I'll be doing a post about cleaning up Gabrielle's sister, Colette, the Featherweight, soon  (I hope!).   Feathers do have a few other steps - they're special, you know.......

Meanwhile, here's to providing good, loving homes to all our vintage orphans!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another Version of Those Cute-Pocket Marcy Pants

If you join a Sewalong, but didn't sew a stitch, did the Sewalong really happen?  I really wanted to participate in MPB Peter's Jeans Sew-a-long, but, well, life happened instead, and nearly two months zipped by with barely a stitch being stitched by me.  Meanwhile, I've been mostly living in my favorite old stretch jeans, which are threatening to break through at the knees, and my two pairs of Marcy Pants V8712.  Now that I've found my way back to the sewing room, it's clearly time for more pants, & quick & easy are the keywords for the moment.    Who ya gonna call?  Marcy T, again!  Version 3 took one day to complete :)    OK, I sort of rushed, since I wanted to wear them to today's BABES gathering, so I made a couple of oopses, but still, I have yet another pair of super comfy pants!

As I had discovered the first time around - and I am not the only one - this pattern has an obscene amount of ease.   I mean, seriously.  My measurements call for Size 14-16, and for the first 2 pairs (one of each view) I made a 12, which essentially got altered down to a 10.   This time I just cut out a 10, added 2+" inches to the length, and they fit with ZERO alterations!   Yes, you read right....NO alterations!   

The fabric gave me a few moments of concern though.   I wanted to do a bit of color blocking like I did on the fleece pants of this version (view A), so I grabbed a nice chocolate Ponte from Marcy, with touches of black woven through, and a lighter brown knit for the contrast.

Until I realized that the lighter brown knit was a woven.   A stretch woven, but still... the woven had about a 30% crosswise stretch, compared to the 100% stretch of the ponte.  And about 25% lengthwise, compared to 50%.    Off to search for something else in the stash.   

Nope, nothing there.  

Even though the last time I tried to mix a knit with a woven (This Decades of Style Wrap) I had quite the challenge getting it to work, I decided to try again.  It actually wasn't a problem at all - so far - here's hoping it washes & wears well!   I think the fact that the contrast was only in the pocket, and at the bottom addition, made the mixture quite workable.

One day of re-tracing the pattern, cutting, and sewing it all up and I was done!  There is definitely something to be said for quick & easy!   I know I've mentioned before that I'm not the speediest sewist around either.....although, as mentioned, I did rush a bit & had an 'oops' on the pockets....

Somehow, even though I swear I double checked to make sure I was sewing the correct sides together, I managed to serge my pockets so that the serged seam was on the inside of the pockets.   Some people might be fine with this, but I just envision bits of lint, lost treasures, fingernails snagging on the thread....maybe it's just me but this was NOT ok.  I suppose I could have just cut off the seam & make the pockets a bit smaller (20/20 hindsight, you know....) but what I did was fold the pockets the correct way & sew up another seam, enclosing the serged edge, so that I ended up with a finished seam on both inside & outside of the pockets.   And, of course, a VERY bulky pocket edge :(
Serged edge on right, enclosed edge on left:

Which resulted in VPL (Visible Pocket Line)  :(

I couldn't stand it.  That Visible Pocket Line was driving me bats, so I decided to do something about it.  I clipped the ends of the pockets that were attached to the top & the side seam, created a new pocket edge by cutting the pocket down with a simple serged edge, reinforced the clipped ends, and can now breath a sigh of relief :)

Here's the view with the old pocket on one leg, and the new pocket on the other.  Guess which is which?  ;-D
Of course, I managed to collect a stray thread for the photo op right near the VPL, but such is life in the sewing room.

I'm now really happy with these pants, and I'm sure my other two pair will be happy to get some rest time!

Finished Pants (before fixing that VPL):

The bonus is that the pants go with everything I made for PR's Mini Wardrobe Contest as well!  Here they are with the Marcy T top:

The knit/woven mixture conclusion?  In small doses, & appropriately placed, I think I won't worry about sewing mixed fabrics/stretches together.  However,  mixing those fabrics on long seams or areas that really need to hang well together......fuhgeddaboutit!

In other news, today's BABES gathering was another delightful success, hosted by the lovely luckylibbet and attended by a dozen or so chatty & talented local sewists.   Tasty food, lots of showing & telling & a fair amount of "Oooooh can I try that on??!!!!  Oh look it FITS me!!!", loads of laughter, and finishing up with folks hauling out their loaded laundry baskets filled with fabric and patterns & books to give away.   How lucky are we to have such a compatible community of comrades to commune with?

Still smiling....... :) :) :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Quick & Easy Fringed Place Mats (aka - define 'quick & easy'?)

Finally!   Life has stabilized somewhat, & I've found my way back to the sewing room!   I thought that whipping out a little one hour project would be a wonderful way to get my needle fingers nimble again - what better project than to add some color to the kitchen with some cheerful place mats for a casual lunch.   I scored this colorful plaid cotton at a garage sale that looked like a nice match for my Lindt Stymeist Colorways dinnerware - turns out it was not just a nice match, but a PERFECT one!

Cut out a few rectangles, stabilize the edges with some stitching, pull a few threads for some fringed edges, and an hour or so later - a new set of placemates!   


Enter stage left:  The Realistic Time Management Police :(.   Three or nine hours later, here's what I did, & what I learned:

Cutting out the rectangles, piece of cake.  Well, except for the fact that my cheap frugal self needs to try every possible layout in order to conserve every square inch of fabric possible.  (which involved laying out some of placements on the grain and some on the cross grain - more about that later)  But still.....piece of cake.

I decided to do fringes all the way around; 1/4" or so on the long edges, 5/8" or so on the short edges.   The narrowest possible zigzag width, and a really short stitch length should make it nice & stable.   Do you know how LONG it takes a non-industrial machine to do a really short, narrow zig-zag?   The equivalent of a 15 mph freeway drive, even though you have the gas pedal pushed all the way to the floor!    I started with my machine set at .4....after awhile moved to .5, .6, .7, .8.......really, THAT short a stitch is way overkill for stability.    Trust me on this one & don't waste your time.

By the way, this entire method will apply to garment construction as well.  :)

Here's the short short short stitch I started with.    The nice aspect of the plaid is all those lines to follow, making a straight stitch line really easy.   And you DO want a very straight stitch line, so that your fringe edge doesn't go all wonky.

Next up, pull those threads for the fringe.   Oh yeah, do you know how LONG it takes to pull threads....thread by thread by thread.... on 24 edges of deceptively small rectangles of fabric?   Hint:  longer than one hour.    Time to practice some Zen attitude.   Or multi-task.   The good news:  I discovered that "So You Think You Can Dance" started last night!  My FAVORITE reality contest show!  I might have missed it if I hadn't been looking for something to multi-task to.   So I'm doing the Happy Dance!  (No where near as beautifully as some of the competitors on this show though - good heavens those kids/athletes can DANCE!)

But back on task:  Here's what I learned about thread-pulling.   Start at the outer edge, & pick your threads out one by one, with an appropriate thread picker.  I used a large quilting type of pin.  NOTE:  You will probably find that one direction, either the warp or the weft (depending on the fiber width, & tightness of the weave) will be easier to pull than the other direction.   You might as well start with the easiest direction, because this will leave the corners unravelled, which will help make pulling the threads in the other direction easier.   Make sense?  Since I had cut out my rectangles with some laid out lengthwise & some crosswise, my fringes ended up looking a bit different on the different layouts, but hey....they're placemats, who's going to notice?  Just don't do this on a garment!

Go ahead & pick the threads for an inch or few at one end, all the way to your stitching line.  Then pull your threads one at a time, all the way to the other end.   Trust me, pulling them one at a time is MUCH easier than breaking threads halfway through & picking them out again!

In order to avoid breaking that thread,  pull it until it bunches the fabric up & stalls......

...& then, while holding on to your thread,  gently push the fabric down the other end.  Your thread will then loosen from the far end and (if the thread pulling goddesses are smiling upon you) the thread will slip right out & you can start on the next one.  Of course, the ease of this will also depend on how tightly woven your fabric is.  

By the end of the day, I had a cheerful new set of place mats!  This fabric, btw, was a bit too heavy for napkins, but a bit on the thin side for place mats.   I had briefly considered doubling the layers with another fabric & making them reversible, but I know.....quick & easy (picture me rolling my eyes here).   So I spray starched the heck out of them & declared them sturdy enough for lunch :)

And we're ready for company!

And the really good news?   I have more sewing time today!   AND I'm looking forward to spending some quality chat time with my fellow BABES (Bay Area Bash Expressly for Sewists) this Sunday.   

And yes, the flowers are from my garden, which is blooming profusely after such a rainy winter!   I promise I'll share more flower & garden pics in upcoming posts :)     

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Double Dose of Yummy!

Well, y'all may realize that I've not been finding the time or energy to be doing a whole lot of sewing lately.   So what does a non-sewing sewist do in such a case?  She buys fabric and sewing machines, of course!

I'm a reformed SMADist, really.  I am.  (for the uninformed, SMAD = Sewing Machine Acquisition Disease).  There are just a COUPLE more machines on my wish know, just in case the right one comes along at the right price.  One of those was a treadle.   And if a Rocketeer fell into my lap, I would, of course, cuddle it for awhile & then happily let it follow me home.  And I always have a soft spot for a nice little Featherweight.  (it's the machine I learned to sew on under my Mother's guidance, after all).

Today there was a "Last Minute Estate Sale" with a Featherweight listed.  Kind of off the beaten path, but very close to my house.  "Everything Priced to sell!"  Since I was passing nearby while out & about, of COURSE I had to check it out, thinking the FW would be long gone if it was, indeed, 'priced to sell'.  But at $300? Nope, not priced to sell to me, but that was OK, because they had MY treadle!!!   $50.   For a Singer 66, and my second choice in treadle cabs.  Sold.  :)  (the only treadle cab I like more is very similar to this one, but the cast iron has straight legs - lovely, simple, clean lines.  Also harder to come by than this one, which is quite common).   By the time I had gone home & emptied out my car to make room for the treadle, & returned to pick it up, the FW was marked down to $200.   Twenty minutes later, I was back home with this:

The 1952 Feather (with case & just a couple of attachments), the 66, which needs some TLC, (but if necessary I'll just cannibalize the wheel & put it on another machine) and a cute little Spartan.   All for $200 - I'm OK with that.  :)  

Someone had refinished the top flap on the desk, which clearly has the potential to be gorgeous!   I think that grain is fabulous!

Next step:  decide which machines to re-home (no, I'm not admitting to how many I have....not at the moment, at least)  ;-D

And then, shortly after getting home, my Fabric Mart box arrives!   Best.  Box.  Ever!

Even His Furriness the Inspector General is in full approval of this one.  Pigskins, sheep shearling, silks, linens, rayon knits, waterproof stuff....& a couple of mystery bits in the freebie bundle (like that lime green twill in the corner.....anyone love lime green?  Because lime green lover would not be me.....)

I've never been this thrilled with a box of fabric in the mail!   Now sew, to sew.......   Right after I pay the bills.  & go to the post office.  & grocery shopping.  & the bank.  & make dinner.   & get ready for work tomorrow.   & do all the Mumsy stuff.  Oh.  Yeah, right.   All that is why I haven't been sewing.   Maybe next week?

But first, give me a minute......I need to go coddle some pigskin & stroke some silk..........

Oh!  I almost forgot!   The bonus score from the estate sale - a pile of vintage buttons!!!  (Have I ever mentioned that I'm a bit of a button freak? - especially vintage)

Of course, with a pile that size, there are bound to be a few really cool buttons.  Here are a few of my faves:
I love mixing buttons, so the fact that scores like this rarely yield duplicates of the really unusual ones is OK by me :).   What's with the Roosevelt pin, you ask?  It appears to be a real, vintage, pin.   Not a super-valuable one, but apparently worth more than I paid for the buttons!  Kinda cool.  :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Blueberries, Balenciaga, & Beautiful Bloggers


I may be a bit of a country girl at heart, but I so love the resources & opportunities available in an urban area - events like the Balenciaga exhibit at the deYoung Museum make my heart sing, especially when shared with a group of fellow sewing & design enthusiasts like this collection of beauties:
JeanBethshamsJennifer, Sydney, Rose, Me, and Natasha (photo courtesy of shams & the lovely Aussie fellow who kept on patiently clicking our camera shutters)  And a big Thank You to Beth, who organized this outing.  :)

One of my favorite little moments of the day was when, after thoroughly & happily inspecting all of the details in the pieces displayed in the first section,  several of us rounded the corner into the next area & saw DOZENS more goodies ready to inspect and admire, & we all let out a collective squeal of delight, then burst into laughter!   There were pieces from the 30's through the 60's, and most of them would be completely relevant & wearable today....maybe not by me, but if I had an appropriate event to attend & someone offered it, there were more than a few outfits that I would don in a heartbeat.....and my face would hurt by the end of the evening because of the smile that I was wearing along with it!

Here's one that I would get a LOT of use from:
Love love LOVE this jacket!

And then, of course, there are the outrageous.  The top third of this one is actually a cape/wrap thingie, so you can, indeed, feed yourself once you've removed it:

This one is just too much fun!:

And then there were the classically sublime pieces:

This shot is from another exhibit (same pieces, different arrangements):
What I like about the above exhibit is the mirrors - the SF show had no mirrors, so you couldn't see the other side of the garments, except for those which were displayed so that you could walk all the way around them.

The exhibit was SO worth visiting, but even better was a chance to connect with fellow BABES (Bay Area Bash Expressly for Sewists) whom I had met, plus a number of new to me sewists.   We settled in with each other so comfortably, inspecting all of the details, yearning to touch the fabric, & chatted up a storm during a yummy lunch at the Cafe.   All on a beautifully sunny day!

What do blueberries have to do with all of this?  Well, before I left home, I carefully donned an outfit completely self-sewn, ready for a day of sewing chat & design delight, & just before walking out the door I grabbed a glass of blueberry juice.....which somehow ended up all over the front of my outfit!  :(    So after a quick change & a thorough rinse of my clothes, I was a bit late, but happy to find my patient fellow sewists chatting in the lobby & waiting for the stragglers.

And at the end of the day, the blueberry juice came out :D