Thursday, January 24, 2013

Brain Surgery!

Well not brain surgery, exactly –But definitely in the category of organ donation as far as machines go!

I have Ila to thank for this wonderful machine.  When she arrived, I had thought of getting her to work, but the poor thing had just lived a better life in a former era.  Does that mean she is unloved?  NOPE!  Just look at how those decals are worn off until they are gone.  Someone loved this machine greatly and used it to death.

See how the “ING” in SINGER is eroded away on her arm?  A hefty case of tragic “PIN RASH” right there.  At some point this machine had a rag wrapped around the arm to catch pins. Convenient, but deadly to decals!

Over the past couple years this machine has lovingly given up it’s take-up lever, ((AKA the "Uppy-Downy!"))  the shuttle and bobbin that were in the machine when I got her, the little front access plate, the back access plate and numerous screws.

The remaining parts left to claim a place on a machine that needs fixing are the spoked balance wheel – which is slated to go to Gae, my 66 electric that gave up her motor and became a treadle head ----and…..

vintagemachines 048

Today – my beloved parts machine gave up her tension assembly check spring!

That was the one thing that was missing on the new 127 ---I knew there was something not quite right….her check spring was broken!

It took some figuring out what to do.  I unscrewed each little piece and laid them on the table in the same order that they came off the machine ---in this photo the adjustment nut, front spring and tension disks are already removed and the check spring is clearly visible.

At this point I was at a loss for how to get the spring out of there..it felt really stuck….and then I remembered something.

That long split bolt up the center of the check spring?  THAT unscrews too and allows the check spring to be removed.


The replacement check spring was bathed in WD-40, wiped down and cleaned with sewing machine oil and I was ready for the transplant.

I sat in front of Dinah with a bit of trepidation.  What if I really screwed this up?  I chased away all negative thoughts and did the same thing I had just done to the parts machine.

Off with the adjustment nut.  Off with the front spring and the tension disks… the broken check spring was plainly visible at this point.

I carefully unscrewed the split bolt ----replaced the broken check spring with the donor one and worked in reverse order to get it all back in to place. Check spring held into place by split bolt, the disks and other items and finally the adjustment nut all into place….

Looking good so far!

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Thread the machine!

By this time of course, the tension was completely out of whack….and I began little by little to adjust it and test by sewing --- adjust some more and sew another seam….tighten, loosen, little by little.

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?  Fix a check spring?  Completely dismantle and replace a tension assembly?  Never say never!

I feel like Rosie the Riveter ---


And I have the WD-40 smelling hands to prove it!  That stuff does not stop stinking…LOL

Not such an exciting blog post, but this whole adventure really taught me something.

I think I’ll spend the rest of the night smiling!


  1. Awesome! I'm so glad it all went back together smoothly! I'm often taking my machine apart to clean it, and I do the same thing.....line all the parts up in the right order! lol And there better not be anything left over when I'm done! Ha!

  2. I have my grandmothers Red Eye treadle and recently got her working. She is so much fun to sew on. But in the process of getting her in shape I discovered there was one tiny little hook missing on the top where the thread lays before taking it down to the tension. I have no idea what it's called, but I stuck a small small nail in the hole, laid the thread over it and continued to thread her and she sews beautifully. Creative and effective. I'm glad you got Dinah into shape and now can give her a work out!

  3. It just amazes me how comfortable and competent you are working on these old machines of yours. Awesome!

  4. Just bought a White 764 known as fair lady for $20. She was froze up. Took her all apart figuring had nothing to really loss. Soaked her in penetrating oil and kept cleaning. Got her running .. But my dining room and I smelled so rotten oil smell. Took dawn to get the grease off my hands and rags are still airing on my deck.. They still stink.. Oh, but the wonderful feeling to bring these forgot or abandon machines back to life.. The stores they could tell.

  5. The nerve to try is at least half of the battle. I will waiver for hours even days, but when I decide to try I usually succeed. Obviously you succeeded and it was worth the feelings of trepidation. Rock on you wild thing!

  6. Good for you! Doesn't it feel great? Smile on...

  7. I serviced my 1934 Featherweight. Bought all my parts from Sew Classic- Jenny has the best parts store with reasonable prices.

  8. Awesome! What makes you "head and shoulders above the crowd" is you feel the fear, and do it anyway!!
    You go girl!

  9. Yeah, Bonnie!!!! You are awesome!!!!

  10. Loved the comfortable way you deal with machines! LOVE IT!

  11. I think you could get a second job as a sewing machine repair person.

  12. There's nothing that a girl with brains and determination (and a screwdriver!) can't do! Well done and have fun!

  13. On my old treadle I have to take my tension assembly all apart and clean. I guess I did ok because it works great. lol Your machine is such a pretty machine. glad you took the chance..lol

  14. I would be smiling too.

  15. You were no doubt an engineer in a prior life.

  16. Good for you for bringing the machine back to life!
    I always wondered why sewing machines on ebay had that cloth wrapped around them. I suspect the seller's are trying to hide the "pin rash" from prospective buyers!

  17. My grandmother had that same machine and I inherited it. The last thing I saw her make was a dress for me in 1954. A frined of mine restored it in the '80's and it really works. Nice post. xo Jenny

  18. I have a Necchi machine that I bought (new) in 1983-ish. I used it occasionally for years and years, but didn't know I was supposed to do periodic cleaning and maintenance. I had it into a local sewing machine shop and the technician reported that the machine was probably not worth the cost to get it back in good working order. I'm not willing to give up on it and am willing to take on the task of trying to work on it myself, but don't really know where to start. Can you give me any pointers for starting out?

  19. Bonnie you are amazing! I would never in a million years try some of the things you do with rebuilding your vintage machines. Well done for sure!!!

  20. I am a longarmer and when something breaks, I have had to learn how to fix it(not that I want to)or not work. I anm miles away from a dealer. Its just part of life. That does not make me want to become a sewing machine repair person but if you set your mind to it, you can do it. You just saved yourself a service fee of at least $90 plus.

  21. Bonnie, good for you! I love to tinker on my old machines, and have learned so much doing so. I've been "offline" a few days while my husband had major (successful) surgery, and glad to catch up on "Bonnie's World." A belated happy birthday! Looks like you had a fun one, and I'm sorry I missed Quilt Cam. My Girls Night Out Bee meets tomorrow evening and DH is encouraging me to go now that he's up and moving well. We play a swap game with dice and charm squares or layer cake squares, drink wine and share pot luck...and of course, quilt!

  22. WOW That's amazing! I wouldn't have the nerve to dismantle anything like that for fear of never getting it back together again! You go girl!

  23. What a fantastic job!! I wouldn't even try something like that....
    Thumbs up overhere!!
    (Hope the stinky bit has stopped now.......??) ;-)

  24. You go girl! Great job. :D

  25. well i for one am impressed....good job!

    1. I agree ... I would NEVER have the "gumpshun" (as my grandma used to say) to even try that. YOU GO, BONNIE!

  26. I would suggest you NOT use WD40 on your machines. Ask on treadleON. They say it dries uo and clogs up the machine. Better to just use sewing machine oil, and, if needed, a little heat from a hair dryer.
    Kitty, from Syracuse, currently in Myrtle Beach

  27. Oops! I clicked on publish too soon.
    You did a great job on replacing the check spring, Bonnie. I have never been brave enough to try that.

  28. Way to go, Bonnie! Usually all we have to do is pay attention to how it comes apart and we can put it back together again. Years ago, in a different life, the ex and I worked on collector cars and that was the philosophy when we took an engine compartment apart. Usually used a Polaroid camera to take pictures of each step to use as reference to put them back together again. (no instant digital camera back then!) Sure makes a girl feel almost invincible when she achieves something like this! "We are woman, hear us roar" or fix things or whatever we put our minds to do! Get your elbow grease out, gals, and go to work!

  29. Thanks for the great read! Years ago, I came home with a singer in cabinet that belonged to one of my clients. Gave her $50 just to take it away. It sat and sat in the cabinet, never being used and I felt guilty about even paying her $50 for it. I wasn't quiltilng then and thought I would never use it so I gave it to the Goodwill. Now I wish I had it again. I bet it was in perfect shape!

  30. I am in awe of your skills! Haha - I have absolutely zero mechanical skills...thank goodness DH does. So excited for you that you have another machine ready to sew!

  31. You are brave! The decals on your machine are enviable. I can't find just the head in that condition for less than a hundred dollars. When I got mine, I found a repair manual somewhere. If you need it, let me know and I'll see if I still have the website saved at home. Lane

  32. Uppey Downey!!! Me too! My poster is framed and on the wall. I smile every time I see it.

  33. the next time you go to the hardware store, on the list should be gloves, if you don't already have them in the cleaning closet. :) Those oil and dirt removing chemicals and petroleum products are better used with our hands covered.|| we have so many things we can't avoid that might make us sick its good to protect from the ones we know and can stay away from.

    The smells can transfer to fabric.

    Thank you for showing us how to be fearless - with the schematic in front of us we should be able to fix most of these vintage machines


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