Friday, May 11, 2012

Oh, Necchi! Ti Amo, Mi Amor!

This is my first ever time actually sewing on a Necchi.

I knew it when I saw it that if this machine RAN at the antique mall—that I was going to buy it, justification or NO justification, just because of what I’ve heard from other vintage Necchi owners ---- They run smooth, they run quiet ---they run fast – much like an Italian sports car!

Besides – Y’all! She is AQUA!!

And then when DH told me the price of a dozen golf balls…..and the price of that ONE BOX of golf balls was about $10 more than I paid for this aqua girl…..it was NO CONTEST.

This afternoon in between everything else, I found a manual online, printed it out, and got right down to the cleaning and oiling diagrams. She’s purring now!

Do I feel ridiculous with this many machines? Not if I can keep them in good working order and adopt them out to homes that need them at some point. I'm saving them from the landfill. It's a noble calling! :c)

I really firmly believe that for good patchwork all you need is a nice straight stitch, a reliable machine that doesn’t eat triangles ((And I know some expensive brands that eat them regularily!)) and a machine that holds its tension.

You also have to be able to get a really good 1/4” seam--- and that’s what I want to talk to you about.

Because I sew on lots of machines, and use many machines for the same project, I’m often asked how I manage since people have been told this “Old Wives Tale” about how a project started on ONE machine needs to be finished on ONE machine.

Think about it. Why would that be? What is your answer?

I can hear you thinking it in your head --- even if you aren’t moving your mouth, I can hear you! “Because not all 1/4” seams are the same.”


Think LOGICALLY here. 1/4” is a finite measurement. That seam either is --- or isn’t --- a 1/4”. The 1/4” itself does not change.

What DOES change though --- is the foot. And I NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER trust a 1/4” foot to give me a 1/4” seam. There are too many variables. The thickness of the thread, the thickness of the fabric, the direction you press your seams, etc. YOUR CUTTING!

Another culprit I’ve found – is the position of the needle within the foot. The 1/4” seam is measured from the needle out --- not from the foot to the needle. So if the needle bar position is a bit off --- and you are sewing by the edge of the foot…you can’t blame the foot, right?

For instance --I used the same 1/4" 37 foot on my Bernina 1080 and my Bernina 1008. The seam is chunkier on the 1008. I think the needle position is a bit off to the left. It's the SAME foot -- but not the same seam.

I also find that many feet with the black 1/4” guides make it hard to see the edge of the fabric, and because we can’t SEE the edge of our fabric, we can over shoot the 1/4” by making SURE it is up against that guide so we get a nice straight seam. The fabric can even curl up a bit against that guide, making it wider than the 1/4” we are looking for.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because. I need a benchmark to be sure that no matter which machine I’m sewing on, I am going to get the same seam allowance consistently from machine to machine to machine. To do that ---I need to measure from the needle OUT, not from the edge of the foot IN.


How do you like this ad?!

This is Ms. Sophia Loren draping her sexy self over a pink Necchi Supernova Ultra! Circa 1956-58 Cool! SO guess what I’ve named MY new Supernova Ultra? Say hello to SOPHIA!

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And you see a bit of my Sew Adjustable table fitting right up against her box…I took the back wrap around portion off ((Cuz I can do that – love that table!) so I can just fit it up against the box she is already in.

Sophia doesn’t have a 1/4” foot yet – I have to order one ((Anyone have any ideas on sources for me? Is this just a regular long shank machine? I want one WITHOUT that dumb black guide!)) so I need to be able to sew a 1/4” seam with the regular foot on. It’s pretty easy to do. You can use either an index card, or –find a nifty guide like this one at a local quilt shop. It’s got needle holes for 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, 5/8”, and if I turn it around, I can measure 1/8” seam with it just by putting the needle in the proper needle hole.

((I do sell these in my classes for $3 to students, but I don't do them mail order...it's too hard to keep them in stock! The guide says "Sewing machine seam guide" with no brand name listed. The postage would double the price of the item, so I haven't offered them for mail order ---plus the added order filling isn't something I have time for right now with being gone so much.))

I set the needle in the hole….used some of that purple sticky seam guide stuff right up against the edge of the guide…. (($5 for a 5-pack of this? Ridiculous….is there anything comparable on the market that won’t take us to the cleaners? I’d rather spend the money on FABRIC!)) Then I removed the guide from under the needle and did a test run.

**Note** if you are using an index card, trim the margin off of the card first. Use a rotary cutter and ruler because scissors are not so accurate and accuracy is important here. Now, sink your needle in the 1st line….the edge of the card will be your 1/4” to set your tape. You might have to monkey with it a bit to get it right.

I sewed two 2” leader/ender squares together with my “new” seam allowance --- and then here is the tricky part:

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What a dirty finger nail! Can you tell I was busy cleaning this machine?!

Don’t measure JUST the seam allowance! Measure your unit across the top from side to side. These 2 squares sewn together needed to give me a measurement of 3 1/2”. IT DOES! Good Girl, Sophia! She’s ready to be sewn on ---but which project first?

Several pages of book editing have been completed. One load of laundry has been done. I ran a load of dishes. But there is so much else to be done in this house that I don’t think any sewing will happen until after I mail out all the mail order tomorrow morning!

Oh, and I still have to finish the pattern instructions for Midnight Flight BEFORE TUESDAY. Maybe there won’t be sewing time yet. *SIGH* But I’ll be ready when there is!


Ah! Bella Sophia!


  1. Oh what a lucky 'find'. I would love to own that one! thanks for explaining how to get an accurate measurement on your machine.

  2. My mom owes a Necchi sewing machine in great condition. It's in a wooden sewing cabinet

  3. For heaven's sake, your machine will last longer than a box of golf balls anyway! HECK, who's counting?

  4. Cool machine! Makes me want to "expand my sewing horizons"...so tempting. I do use a number of different machines and measure the same way but I mark my throat plate differently. I use 1/4" painters tape (actually the green one for wall paper has the least sticky residue). I line one edge of the tape even with the needle and the other edge is 1/4" for seam allowance. The inside (needle side) lets me line up "stitch 'n flip" squares for flying geese, etc. If you need a picture, let me know - Ila

  5. I met my first Necchi this year when I volunteered to help the high school art teacher teach her art students how to quilt. The art teacher's grandmother left her Necchi sewing machine to her. It was a dream to sew on. We had the original manual with it, so we had to refer to it often. :-)

  6. that was very educational and highly entertaining...welcome to Quilter's Nirvana Bella Sophia.

  7. Sweet new machine! I NEVER see anything worthwhile in the way of old machines and I would love a smallish piecing machine! I use a small strip of moleskin on the bed of my machine to give me a slight edge to run up against when the 1/4" is critical. I cut it with a ruler and rotary cutter so I am sure the edge is straight and usually try to piece three squares together and measure the one in the middle to ensure I am on the right track. great machine!

  8. Hi Bonnie, does that needle plate have different openings on it?
    I've never seen a needle plate cover like that--it looks round too.
    Any info on it? I'm really curious. Does the manual have any info about it?

    She's really cute--love the color.

    BTW-I have a "Sophia-2" too, lol. But it's not vintage, it's a BL.

  9. I would like you to do a post with all your machines shown. Or a thing on your side bar with pictures that could be flipped through. I would like to see all of them at one sitting.

  10. I love a story with a happy ending. Just curious...exactly how many machines do you have? My friends are always teasing me, because I have...a few, but I am betting that you have a lot more than I do. Have you tried eBay for a 1/4" foot?

  11. Oh... too bad you cannot sit right down right now and sew a few blocks just so you two can get better acquainted. I have my eye out for a vintage Necchi myself--I've heard so much good about them. Hope you get to enjoy her very soon.

  12. Yaaaay! I knew you would loooove it!!!
    There are "good stitches" and then there is the way a Necchi stitches...Gorgeous!
    I nearly wept when I saw how my first Necchi sewed! Now I have 4!

  13. What is the name of that yellow seam guide thing?? I NEED one of those!

    1. JoAnn Fabrics and Hancock Fabrics have a similar seam guide "thing" made by Dritz. The Dritz is red, rather than yellow but otherwise the same tool. I think Nancy's Notions may have the yellow one. However, they aren't as inexpensive as Bonnie's. Wait for a 50% off coupon or sale: then it will be around $5. I put a ledge of painters tape up against the seam guide to guide the fabric against. I made sure my quilt guild had one in their equipment so we were all sewing the same sized seams when we made our group quilts. Now there's less angst when it comes time to join blocks together.

  14. I have a Neechi in a cabinet I think from the 1930/40s might have to see if it runs !!

  15. I too would love to know the name of the yellow seam guide so I could possibly find one online or at least know what to ask for at my local quilt store. Thanks Bonnie!

  16. The guide says "Sewing machine seam guide" with no brand name on it -- that's all I know. I supply them to my workshop folks, but the postage would double the price of the item, so I haven't offered them for mail order ---plus the added order fulfilling isn't something I have time for right now.

  17. I use plain old masking tape for the 1/4" guide on the bed of my machine. It's marked with 1/4" on either side and a "centering" mark so I can sew diagonally on small squares without marking them. Cost -- next to nothing.

  18. Anonymous8:22 PM EDT

    I have used the hook side of 3m velcro replacement strips. I can take it up and stick it on top of the machine till I need it again.

  19. Hi! I own two Necchi groups on Yahoo and Bonnie just joined us to find a 1/4" foot. I was thrilled to have her come! Someone asked about the round needleplate...a unique feature of the Necchi Supernovas..one is for zig-zag, one for straight stitch, and one for twin-needle work. You just release it and turn to the one you want! Glad to see some here who love vintage Italian Necchis too...Sarah's post is music to my ears. If you'd like to come check us out (we have almost 2000 members now), just come to:

    We're eager to see how Bonnie likes Sophia and the beautiful quilting she'll do on it. I'm a novice quilter and love checking out Bonnie's site and blog. I've done a few projects, not many, and thought I was fine with a 1/4" seam. BUT.....then a group I was on had a swap I wanted to join but it required a SCANT 1/4" seam and I just couldn't get it right, so the block size didn't come out right. And it had to so it would match other's blocks in the swap. So I gave up...for the time being at least..but not forever! Life's been a bit challenging for awhile now and I haven't been able to do much sewing, so have just been collecting fabric and kits to work on....someday! After more practice, of course!! Thanks so much Bonnie for all the great work you do and share....I think one of the first things I heard about you was your suggestions for organizing!!
    Polly Lacy

    1. I just found Bonnie on the Necchi sewing machine group Polly mentioned, and I'm so excited! First of all, I wasn't aware of the aqua Supernova...and now I have to find one, someday. But best of all, I've discovered this wonderful blog about quilting. I've just recently started quilting again, and it's exciting for me to read about your exploits. Thank you, Bonnie for opening new worlds to me!

  20. travelling with mom this weekend and she informs me she wants a sewing machine like my grandmother had... unfortunately my aunt tossed all her stuff to the curb when she died before asking anyone what they wanted.... she had a treadle and a featherweight! I have the treadle... now I need to find a featherweight! I fear I will need to start travelling as much as you do to find one.

  21. After hearing about your adjustable sewing mate,my hubby ordered me one. It came today and I already love it. Thanks for heading me that direction!

  22. My dad sold Necchi sewing machines and my mum had several -- newer models each time. When I was newly married and living in an outport in Newfoundland I bought a Singer. My dad was disgusted with me and asked why I would do that. And I said that it was easier to get repairs done. He was even more disgusted and said -- but when you have a Necchi you don't need repairs!

  23. I love your Sophia! Aqua...cool! Since you only sell the sewing machine seam guide to your classes ...can you tell me where I can find one? I have heck getting that 1/4 inch seam for quilting. :0)

  24. I have a sewing table similar to yours for my big machine. I was disappointed when it wouldn't fit around the base of my Singer Genie. Never even occurred to me to take the back portion of the table off. As soon as I get a replacement foot pedal I think I'll do just that!

  25. My mother bought a Necchi (cabinet model) in the 1950's. My dad used to make us (I have 2 sisters) skirts on it, and my mother made all our clothes. It has a knee feed. My sister still has it.

  26. Well, I decided to google the seam guide and found it several places....at different prices!

    The yellow one at Bayside Quilting; this one looks like the one Bonnie uses.


    The yellow one and a green one at Soft Expressions; they say the yellow one will get a scant 1/4' seam. It looks a bit different than Bonnie's, squared end, not slanted. I think the green one is prob. yellow, slanted end, says is Cut Rite. The yellow one is Perfect Piecing too and she says to use it to mark the scant 1/4 and then mark the line with tape or a sticky note.


    Nancy's notions- the yellow one and another interesting one, large sheet. Yellow one is Perfect Piecing;


    Erica's tools-yellow one again...only $1.95


    Dritz one in red: Dritz Quilting Machine Seam Gauge & 1/8 Adhesive Seam Guide. You get the right size and then put the adhesive strip next to it to guide the fabric against. JoAnn's has a lot of Dritz stuff but online, not this one.

    I'm going to get at least one of these and see if I can achieve a SCANT 1/4" seam!

  27. About the little black thing on the 1/4" foot - I just bend it up and down a few times and it snaps right off. A friend just bends it up out of the way. Problem solved.

  28. Hi Bonnie,

    I discovered your site a few months ago and have been following you since. I've learned a lot about scrap quilts and many of the other hints you've posted and wanted to thank you! The tip about the index card to figure out your 1/4 inch worked perfectly. Thank you for being so generous with your time and information (and patterns)

  29. Please don't think you have to many machines! My mom is a "collector" and while talking on the phone one day she quickly listed about 35 Singers that she has collected, that's only the Singers mind you, that doesn't include the pfaffs, vikings, kenmores, etc. She is quick to point out that many of the machines were given to her by people who said they wouldn't work. Well, she takes them home, oils them, cleans them, adjusts the tensions - and voila! - they work again.

  30. I have to admit that I am jealous of your antique machine collection. I have been searching Craig's list in my area for a featherweight machine or a treadle machine. So far the cheapest featherweight I have seen was $175 and some were $450. That just doesn't work on my current budget (1 kid in college and the other heading off to college in the fall).

    I remember playing around with my grandmothers treadle sewing machine as a child. Unfortunately she had it converted to electric and threw away the treadle. It appears that my brother intends to keep the machine even though he does not sew. My parents gifted him with my grandmother's old house and he found the machine in storage.

  31. Most industrial machines are long shank machines, so that gives us more options of finding the feet we want; although I don't know how many old sewing machine guys are close to you..
    I order lots of my accessories for vintage machines from TO member Cindy at stitchesintime@earthlink.net and I do know she has a long shank 1/4" foot. The foot that came on one of my Necchi's gives me a very accurate seam allowance from a couple of different positions (but I may just have been lucky in getting that foot).
    (I don't know if she's planning to attend the NC toga this year or not.)

  32. I just love the round multi stitch plate on Sophia. Oh the days when manufacturers tried to save you from having to buy a gazillion separate accessories LOL.
    I have a 2 year old Pfaff that cost a bomb & I am having so much trouble with the tension & trying to get a good clean stitch. It is so frustrating!!
    Thanks so much for your wise words re the old machines. I am now looking for an old featherweight or some such so I can get some sewing done!!

  33. Great post, Bonnie.
    thanx for the insights

  34. Anonymous6:10 PM EDT

    I have an antique Necchi that I would like to sell. I am 65, and I remember my mother using it to make dresses for me when I was a girl. It is not a treadle machine. The problem right now is that I am near Seattle and it is in Boise, Idaho. I am going to the house there on Sunday and can provide more information then if you are interested.
    Sandra Sharp
    Bainbridge Island, WA
    email: sandyandmike@gmail.com

  35. I have a necchi supernova that I would like to sell. It has a cabinet. I dont have a manual for it and dont know how to do just a straight stitch and I think it is stuck in reverse

  36. The red Dritz seam guide has very small holes and for me the Schmetz topstitch needle is too big.


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