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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Frustrating and Rewarding!

A question came from a watcher/reader during Quilt Cam time asking WHY I like to sew on vintage machines, didn’t I purchase a new Janome just 4 years ago ----didn’t I use it anymore?

It’s an easy question to answer, but a hard one for many to understand.

It’s hard to describe the connection I feel when I sew on my Great Grandmother Manuel’s machine….and how it was passed to my Grandmother, my mom’s mom ---the stories of the things that my mom sewed on it in high school ----my hands touching where their hands touched.  It’s just a wonderful thing.

I love the simplicity of a non computerized non die-cut perfect process.

As a quilter, and a consummate piecer, I really only need a good straight stitch.

Most machine issues I can handle myself ---I don’t mind getting in there and getting dirt and grease under my fingernails.  You can’t do that with a computerized plastic machine.  Computerized machines require someone who is trained in the intricate workings of circuit boards and other electronics to keep the machine grounded and safe from frying temperamental parts while dusting out and oiling the parts that keep the machine sewing.  Many times machines are taken in only to be blown out and oiled and that’s it.

What was once an easy do-it-yourself fix is now something you may be paying at least $69.99 to $99.99 at least once a year, if not twice a year for someone else to handle.  Not only is the cost of routine maintenance expensive, but it is a nuisance as well.  I don’t like to be without my machines --- do you??

There are a couple of things I have not mastered yet.  Wiring.  Timing.  And I may or may not learn those in time, but I have a great “Old Sewing Machine Guy” who can tackle all of this for me when I come across something I can't handle.  His prices are reasonable and we have great conversations about the old machines, and I always come away knowing more than when I arrived.

In the event of a need for zig-zag, I’ve got that covered.  In the event that I need a machine embroidery stitch or button holes or machine applique stitches, I’ve got that covered – but the occasion is rare as that is not my main focus.  I’m not a fuser ---I’m a piecer.  Straight stitch is all I need, and a machine that is built to do ONLY straight stitch is capable of performing the best straight stitch ever.

Well, that is until tonight.

vintage machines 006

I decided to swap out the Red Eye 66 for the Tiffany 115 –and though I’ve got her sewing, and the tension is good ((This one has yet a different bobbin case than I’ve ever seen either – it’s full rotary hook)) I can’t get the stitch length to hold.  The faster I sew, the smaller the stitch gets.  The slower I sew, the longer the stitch length --- so I have a suspicion it is how the feed dogs are feeding.  This may be one of those things that I can’t fix myself.

I have some vintage machine friends and connections who might have an idea of what needs to happen here ---we will get that stitch length evened out!  After all, this Tiffany turned 100 years old this year, she was made in 1913.  She’s just a youngster compared to some of the others ----we will get her into shape!

As for any computerized plastic machine here in the house?  I doubt any of them will be working 20 years from now.  They will be obsolete and parts will likely not be available to fix them.  My vintage ladies?  They will outlast us all!

I about to settle in to Downton Abbey and some binding ---will work on the machine more tomorrow!

34 comments:

nobody said...

Thanks for answering that question! I saw it posted it in the comments on your previous post but I missed Quilt Cam and I thought I missed the answer.

It is enlightening to realize that my very expensive sewing machine won't last as long as the simple machines. I need to improve my sewing on the Featherweight I have, it goes so fast I have a hard sewing straight. I'm going to rig up the type of seam guide you use, it's longer and provides more guidance than the machine accessory seam guide.

I have had my grandmother's treadle since I was a girl, but it has been in my parents' attic the entire time. I can't wait to get it out, tune it up and get it working! I want that connection to a grandmother I barely knew.

Beth said...

I agree with your Bonnie. My Singer Featherweight that Ii inherited from my Great Aunt sews like a dream. I have two expensive machines and am sure the last one I bought will be obsolete vs the Singer Featherweight.

Sorry I missed Quilt Cam today

Beth

Sue Monsey said...

I love your answer. I was just talking to a lady today about the feeling of sewing on my Featherweight as opposed to my Janome 6600. I love them both and I use my Janome at home and my Featherweight everywhere else.

The Janome is fast and when I use it, it is about getting it done. When I sew with my Featherweight it is more about the process and I am finding that I am enjoying piecing a whole lot more lately.

Who knows, one of the Featherweights may push the Janome aside.

~~Sew Happy Designs~~ said...

I totally agree with every sentence on this post!! You rock
Bonnie Hunter!!!
Keep Calm and Sew Somethin!!
Hugs,
Cindy in NY

Mavis said...

Bonnie, you hit the nail on the head! The reason I bought my Janome 6500 was so I could do a better job of machine quilting. Prior to that I was using an old Kenmore (nicknamed Kenny, of course). I don't have a long arm to do my quilting on. I do have a b-line frame on which I put my Janome 6500 and it does a pretty good job of quilting for everything except stitch in the ditch. No rail lock and rulers are tough on that system. There are times when I'm really tempted to pull her off the frame and use her to mchine quilt in the ditch when the quilt begs for that type of quilting. My older machines just don't have a throat big enough to take the bulk for quilting. So that's why I originally bought the Janome 6500. It has a bigger throat and the thread cutter is very useful too. I love my Featherweight when I can get the tension right and I've also just pulled Kenny out of the closet to let him know he's still loved and useful. I also use a Janome Jem as my main piecing machine and to take to classes. I expect Kenny and my Featherweight, nicknamed Ferdinand, will far outlast the new girls. Ferdinand was my mother-in-law's sewing machine so there is also that sentimental attachment to it for me. I understand how you feel in that regard. Happy stitching!

Unknown said...

The computerized machines cost an arm & a leg to fix, $300 for a new computer board a few years ago. If it happens again I'll try to sell it as a parts machine rather than fixing it. I'm only using it right now for free motion quilting and do my piecing on my vintage machines. I do have a 301 and there's another one in a desk at the secondhand shop, superb condition, all accessories including a zig zag attachment, decals perfect, it's an auction item so no telling how high the bids might go. I really, really shouldn't but I think I might put in a bid...husband might leave me soon :-)

Peggy Thompson said...

I have a brother XL3750 that I call my disposable sewing machine. It travels with me and goes to classes with me and when it has worn out, I will replace it with another disposable machine. I use it because it is lightweight. One day I will have a featherweight to replace it. At home, however, it is a different story. I love the vintage machines because I can tinker with them and keep them running and because they last forever.

Missy Shay said...

I understand how you feel, I've been doing all of my piecing on my hand crank. My husband asked me why I don't use my Janome, as far as new sewing machines go, it's a great machine, but it is so much easier to fix my hand crank IF something was to go wrong on it, but so far I've not had any problems. I let a 12 year old use it, and she fell in love with because "there were not a lot of extras to figure out" (her quote), she also did not have to keep stopping to fix something like she does on her "newish" machine.

Dora, the Quilter said...

Your can take your FW foot control apart and adjust the threaded bolt to slow down your machine--someone probably adjusted it so she could sew faster.

Ann-Maree said...

My sewing machine repairman asked me this question..'Have you purchased a sewing machine or a computer ?' Something to think about!

Dora, the Quilter said...

I love my vintage and antique machines for exactly the reasons you state. (And, although I don't know who originally used my old machines, I still feel a connection with them!)

OrrtannaKat said...

Look for a Singer 201. They have a pretty good amount of space for quilting. I'm not home to measure mine, but I think it's about 9 inches. I've done everything up to &
including king size quilts on mine.

Lois M. said...

I am just about convinced that no machine is good at stitch in the ditch.That was only done best by hand.I have a Statler longarm and stitching in the ditch is harder than doing it on a domestic machine. When everyone handquilted, it was easiest to follow the seam.

Faye said...

So agree with your statements, Bonnie. The connection with history is a great feeling, Whether I use my Featherweight, my Singer 99, one of the vintage Kenmores, Whites, or Singers, or even the 1911 White treadle, there is an historical connection that can't be explained. Who can tell what those machines have seen, how many clothes were made for family, the curtains in which style for what household, the quilts which covered the ones they loved??? I took the Featherweight to a class I am teaching and one of the members said, "She even sounds old." That is a good feeling...I have a machine which is older than I but works better than some of the newer, fancy ones...and I can fix it myself when something goes wrong.
Faye in Maine

margaret said...

I love my new baby lock, all the bells and whistles. But what I really regret is letting my Mothers featherweight go to auction. After she died I couldn't look at it without remembering her sewing into the night to make my prom dress or all the other times she sewed with it. She never did have another machine. Now I wish I had it and could set it up and stitch the night away.

thequiltersshed said...

Great answer!

Jan Duffy said...

Bonnie, you are "sew" right. I have been sewing on my grandma's machine a couple days now that the "old sewing machine guy" fixed up good for me. and I noticed the paint was worn off in the exact place where I put my arm and realized my grandma must've done the same thing. It is a connection.

Jan

Lynn Wakeham said...

oh Margaret, you're making me cry, my Mum (also a Margaret) is still alive but her Mum was a dressmaker & my Mum tells a story of me cutting up Nana's tape measure on the inch marks (under the table, I was obviously old enough to cut but not to know better) I have bought a treadle, but the bobbin tension is too tight, I need to get into it & research how to fix it

nobody said...

Thanks, that's a great tip! I was thinking of getting an adapter that allows the speed to be regulated, but this is cheaper!

Stephanie Newman said...

I love my computerised electric wizardry, but I also love vintage sm's for the historic way in which they connect us to the past. I hunted down the same old Elna machine as my Nana owned and from using it have remembered all sorts of things from when I was small and she would explain how and what she was sewing to me. Something about the smells and sounds connect me to those memories decades ago. Later, I hunted down a virtually pristine 1010 Bernina just like the one I learnt to sew on, that my Mum still sews on today, along with a computerised Bernina. Like me she loves having access to both older and new. I don't think I'd want to have to pick between only new or only old! I always wonder when I see an old machine what sorts of projects were sewn under its needle and who its previous owners were, and what their lives were like. But then I love the features I can get for the quilt art I make from modern machines, even though they won't be running in 50 years from now. We are so blessed today that we can have our cake and eat it too.

Lucy said...

amen :-)

pjbear said...

I only have my non computer Bernina 830 (1982) which i love the things I have made on this My wedding dress, daughters veil kids clothes repairs

sandra said...

Can you drop the feed dogs on the 201? And what about a walking foot??? I have a couple of 201s and have noticed how big the throat is and wondered about machine quilting on them.

Leslie said...

I have been reading your blog for a couple years, and there are times I regret purchasing my computerized machine. Granted I went with the Kenmore version of the Janome. I do like my Kenmore, bought it for $250, but paid over $100 to tune it up after a year. I really wish I had searched for an old machine. I used to see them all the time for as low as $25 at the thrift store. Hindsight, I think those would've been cheaper in the long run to fix. I inherited my mom 's Singer from 1971. One part needs to be replaced that wore down, a rubber gear. I have plans to get it up and running.

QueenB said...

I too have 3 old singers in cabinets 1930's vintage. They both run on feet power and one has electric. I also have a new computerised machine which I do a lot on but this talk makes me want to get the girls out and running. I miss my 2nd cousin's 1911 singer treadle but it's rusting in the feed shed on my sister's shed, and she has no interest in getting her up and running. I also have 2 Elna Supermatics which are from 1960's. They power along in great condition. My daughter has claimed one already. Gotta love the old girls, just hope I can keep going as well when I am their age!

Debbie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon said...

My Bernina 1530 is 20 yrs. old or nearly so. It's still going strong. After I leaned to clean my machine properly, I have not had to take in in yearly. Knock wood, it still humms along and b/c of you I have a Featherweight for classes and just in case. LOL Machine envy.

Lakegaldonna said...

Good explanation Bonnie. Looks like many of us feel the same way!

Tammy said...

Bonnie you are sew right about vintage sewing machines. Those old treadles and straight stitchers are ornamental as well as functional. I have a fabulous Singer 15-91 (Pearl) from the 1930s that sews the best stitch. I put in her a 1914 oak drawing room cabinet, it is my favourite machine for piecing. Of course, no vintage sewing machine collection is complete with a threadle or two or in my case three. Two 15-89 Singers and one 1910 Bernard Stoewer manufactured in Germany. The Stoewer treadle has a vibrating shuttle bobbin and a reverse! I love to treadle while watching tv as the machine is so quiet. There is a place for embroidery and fancy computerized machines but for easy maintenance and every day sewing the vintage machine wins. I have a gorgeous Phaff Creative 2 that is fussy about thread, currently the thread cutter and low bobbin sensor stopped working. It is a pain you know wear to pack it up, then haul it to the sewing machine mechanic. Of the newer machines, my favourite of all time is the Husqvarna Lily 555, it just sews wonderfully all the time and never gives me any grief. It is a beautiful machine to sew on.

cityquilter grace said...

and a great episode it was too....woo hoo 2 whole hours!

Angie said...

I love reading about all your vintage machines Bonnie. I used to have some Singer 301's and a few Featherweights a few years ago. However I sold them because while I love to look at them I seldom used them. I've very spoiled with the "modern" machines. Maybe it's because I'm old, and I like the new "plastic wonders"! Like my automatic needle threader, knee lift, "stadium lighting", auto bobbin winder, auto thread cutter and touch screen. All the things I enjoy using! I think the new machines will last about as long as I need them, and I don't worry too much about repairs. I agree there is something special about the nostalgia and history associated with vintage machines, and the challenge of restoring them is a great part of the fun too. I'm just not in that loop any longer.......

Dee said...

The 201 has a toggle bolt underneath that allows you to drop the feed dogs. One of my favorite features!

sandra said...

Thanks Dee!!! I will now get them serviced so I can use them!(I'm not the least bit mechanically minded and have no idea where to START to get them going properly. They both have tension issues.

crazy quilter said...

Hi Bonnie, I got the time zone thing wrong (duh) and missed quilt cam but I totally agree with your assessment of Vintage and new machines. You inspired me to pull out the Singer 401A that I learned to sew on and take her to be tuned up. I have a wonderful featherweight that I used for your class on New Year's Day. It had been a while since she saw the light of the sewing room but wondered after that day why don't I sew on her more? Since then I have purchases 2 301 's and and a 99K and love them all . I do have two Bernina's with all the bells and whistles but since my new acquisitions they are not getting used every day . I am also an Avis pieced but do like Machine appliqué so the Bernina's are used for that. Thanks for making me a Vintage machine junkie , I am loving it!