Saturday, September 12, 2015

And it was 1948


It was 1948 the year that The Snake Pit opened in theaters staring Olivia de Havilland.

Touted one of the best movies of the year 1948,  movie-goers flocked to theaters eager to see the well acclaimed novel represented on film with their favorite box office stars playing the lead roles.
In this psychological drama, Virginia Cunningham (Olivia de Havilland) is confused upon finding herself in a mental hospital, with no memory of her arrival at the institution.
Tormented by delusions and unable to even recognize her husband, Robert (Mark Stevens), she is treated by Dr. Mark Kik (Leo Genn), who is determined to get to the root of her mental illness. 

As her treatment progresses, flashbacks depict events in Virginia's life that may have contributed to her instability.

Sound intriguing?

It was also 1948 when this little machine made it’s debut down the Singer Manufacturing Company’s assembly line:


1948 Singer 15-91

It took some doing, but she is finally up and running!


This is a bad mess!

The machine was so eager to sew, it ran the moment I plugged it in!  And my foot wasn’t even ON the foot pedal!

Not good.  Not good at all!

I tried a different plug-in for the machine – I have other machines that use the same kind of plug.  Nope!  It still ran on its own no matter what I did.

I checked the terminals IN the foot pedal.  That was not the problem.  All fine there.

It has to be the wires in HERE:


UGH.  Plug unscrewed from machine.

The problem was there were bare wires shorting out the foot pedal at THIS point..where the plug recepticle is for the wall cord and the foot pedal.  They were wired separately, with the foot pedal bein hard-wired in and the electrical that plugs into the wall being a separate cord.

This is where my friend Grant comes in!  A steady facebook chat and some cheering on while I disconnected the foot pedal, and tried it with a 2 line connection instead of one….yes, I had a spare one of those lying around too!  ((That’s the same kind of connection that a featherweight has))


All plugged and ready to run!

The new plug saved the day.  The foot pedal is no longer wired to the machine, but can be unplugged from the machine along with the electrical cord.  SO much better.  And I learned something.  And I have one other potted motor machine that needs this done to as well…when I have time that is.


Cleaning problems!

My challenges weren’t over.  I could get the front screw off of the needle plate, but the back one was stuck but good and no matter how much torque I tried, I couldn’t get that screw to budge.

I tried soaking it with WD40.  That didn’t do anything.

Back to the wonders of the internet and a post to facebook and instagram for ideas and recommendations.  INSTANTANEOUS RESPONSE!  And off I went to Advance Auto (The only auto parts store in my little one stop light town) for a small ratchet screw driver and some liquid wrench.


My new best friends!

Liquid wrench stinks to high heaven.  But it did the job inside of 20 minutes.  And I was able to use the little ratchet screw driver to easily get that pesky screw from behind the needle bar out of there.  That is just a tough spot back there.  Most screw drivers are too tall, and the short chunky ones don’t fit the slot in the screw.  This is going to save my bacon and I’ll use it again and again.  Thank you internet friends! 

Also recommended by more than one person was a product called Blue Creeper.  It is supposed to work faster than Liquid Wrench, but I couldn’t find it locally.

((I’m thinking how hard it would have been to get this far if we were dealing with this same situation 20 years ago. Friends at my fingertips – I love it!))


THIS is really OLD junk!!

I was able to get in under those feed dogs and get the old fuzzy hamsters out of there.  Who knows how long this has been clogged like this?  Maybe someone else couldn’t get that danged screw out of there either and just left it?  Those feed dogs can sure breathe a lot easier now!

I made a little video of some test sewing!  All I had to do was insert a new needle and adjust the tension a bit.

And then came time for real sewing.

But first…the sticky seam guide dilemma.

I can’t get my Scotch restickable mounting strips any more.  I know some have found them on amazon, but every time I’ve placed an order I’ve been told they are out.  Not available.  I haven’t heard from the company if they are in fact discontinued but I’m tired of trying to find them.  It’s time to move on to something new.

Last weekend I tried these:


Results?  Not so great.

The foam is far too squishy.  It pushes and wiggles if you run your fabric up against it too hard.  That was my same problem with moleskin.  It’s just too soft.  The wax paper on the top of this one came off pretty rapidly and I had to use masking tape on top of it to keep the sticky on top covered.

So I’m trying THIS instead:


Scotch Removable Poster Tape.

It says it’s removable.  It’s not supposed to damage walls.  It’s 3/4’’ wide and there are 4.6 yards on this roll.  This may last me a long time!

I cut a 3/4’’ strip of hotel room key.  Put the strip of double stick poster tape on the back side of the room key. Peeled the backing off and stuck it down to my machine bed after using my seam guide to measure where it needed to go.

So far….SEW GOOD!


Yeah, we are sewing!

And as for this machine’s name?  Back to the top of the post.  Olivia de Havilland was one classy lady.  I think I need to see if I can find this movie from 1948!  And I think I’ll call this machine Olivia!

See you tomorrow at 2pm for Quilt-Cam!

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  1. I love that you aren't afraid to tackle cleaning and working on your vintage machines. This machine and cabinet will be great additions to your collection.

  2. she is adorable! as is that cabinet as well....so nice to resurrect this little gem and put her back to work!

  3. Old quilter9:06 PM EDT

    Vintage Machine ? What, what ???
    15-91 is my original workhorse machine - I expect it to keep chugging away long after my Bernina or little Viking have gone into retirement. Weighs a ton, though it was supposed to be portable in it's tapered suitcase.

    And I clearly remember being totally scared & horrified by The Snake Pit.
    Getting old - - -

  4. Surprise, I have the same cabinet. The machine was taken out and put into a tote and I bought off Craigslist. Not long afterward I moved and it was all forgotten. I'm going to get it out and see what shape it's in.

  5. Anonymous9:17 PM EDT

    Just an FYI on your resticable strips. I found them at my JoAnne's here in Ocala FL today and a couple of weeks ago at Hobby Lobby so maybe they will still show up for you. virginiaejoseph@gmail.com

  6. I have a 1950 Singer 15-91 in this cabinet but I have a 1948 featherweight. Just the same age as my dear Hubby. Yes I married an older man. I'm a child from 1951! Oh we Boomers!

  7. Amazing the gunk I find when I brave it to take the throat plate off! Felted lint under the feed dogs makes the machine sluggish. Glad you could get them free on your "Olivia". I'll have to catch you later on YouTube. I'l be in the car riding when You do QuiltCAM tomorrow.

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  9. Oh she is a cutie!
    I got a 301 from Ebay, it was listed as working but it did not work at all! Mr Handsome used some Creeper stuff on it and we did get it apart, we also got it to run very slow and very labored. Then....we broke the fork thingy, I will get it fixed, it won't stay sick forever!

    Love vintage machines, actually I love new machines also as long as they sew well!
    Look forward to quilt cam tomorrow.

  10. Anonymous10:26 PM EDT

    Hi Bonnie, Have you heard of Q tools with Marci Baker? She has the Sewing edge a reusable vinyl stop 5 strips in a package. web site quiltwithmarcibaker.com
    888 348-6653 Hope this will help you.
    Barbara Utter

  11. Hi Bonnie, loved your blog a bout your new cabinet & bonus Singer. Looks like it see like a dream. Watching your Quiltcam tomorrow and wanted to ask if you will show exactly how your line up your Thimle leaders/Enders. I didn't know if I was supposed to offset. Thanks!

  12. Love hearing about and knowing you have turned into a sewing machine mechanic! Best part is you are sharing your info with us.

    Olivia (the actress and the machine) are beautiful!
    Smiles, JulieinTN


  13. Congratulations! Olivia is beautiful and her cabinet is wonderful. You scored big time.

    Can't wait for Quilt Cam. It is so much fun and so inspiring to see you in your studio and feeling connected to other Quiltvillians.

    I am looking forward to seeing you in person in Kirksville next week. I was considering bringing "Sadie", my 1940 15-91 and today's blog cinched my decision!

  14. ptmemaw - you can click on the box on the side of the site that says "Are you ready to tumble" - all the directions are there, and yes, offset.

    Love your new machine Bonnie. I spent about an hour futzing with my featherweight this morning at an "open sew" at my guild. She is truly cleaned, oiled and lubed now and sounding much better. Still won't sew fast, which is think is a problem in the foot pedal. I have another machine here at home and will try that foot in the morning to see if it is a foot pedal problem.

  15. Anonymous4:46 AM EDT

    Bonnie, I've never commented before, but I've learned so much on your blog, thank you.

    As for seam guides, I have recently discovered that an oblong Post-it pad makes a good seam guide. I take off the protective layer at the back of the pad, and it sticks well enough and is still easily removed. When it stops sticking after a while, I just peel off a layer to restore the stickiness. I'm using a cheap no name copy and it works well.

    Christine, UK

  16. PennyMNQuilts7:32 AM EDT

    Wow! Love your new find! Thank you for sharing the way you were able to loosen the screw on the face plate. I just acquired a Spartan 192K, and had the same issue. It sews like a dream, but I really want to give it a once over. Off to my local auto store this week. Keep smiling, while enjoying these beautiful days of autumn.

  17. Bonnie,
    I have 2 15-91s. The first one I paid way too much for and the second I rescued from a Habitiat Reuse store. Have restored the motors and they sew through anything. I use one of them just for bindings- machine sew my bindings on using the glue method. One of the 15-91s need to find another home.
    I love the cleaning and fixing part, don't need to do the keeping part. My favorite machine- the LBOW 301! None of my machines in a cabinet except the treadle.

  18. I have that sewing machine. It was my mom's and made the year of my birth 1948! Mine has some electrical issues, basically with the wiring to the foot petal...mine has a knee pedal in the cabinet, which is how we always used it growing up. Love that machine. It is a workhorse.

  19. My Mahogany seat to this machine is stuffed with PIG hair...it's really stood the hands of time.

  20. Congratulations on your new machine! She is a beauty and in her cabinet she will be a perfect addition to the "fleet"! Her name is perfect! Olivia was my first thought for a name!
    Ellie Lively

  21. You did an amazing job! Olivia is the perfect name for such an elegant lady... Enjoy!

  22. Love that quilt with the four patches. Love that new to you machine. I have one as well but my cabinent isn't as lovely as yours and I paid more. Haha. Thanks for all the tips, instruction and quilt cam. I love sunday afternoon quilt cam's. But then I love all quilt cams and appreciate them whenever you can squeeze one in. Most of all I love your blog. I never miss a single post and enjoy everyone. All the pictures and sharing of your life and family are truly generous of you. See you this afternoon on quilt cam.

    ellen in arkansas


  23. Anonymous12:45 PM EDT

    That machine is gorgeous - purrs and looks just like the beauties of filmdom from the 40's and 50's! It is so quiet, good for you on getting a bonus.

    kamkad at sbcglobal.net

  24. I just bought a 15-91 and have the same electrical problem, My husband covered the wires, but I would like to change it the way you did. Are there instructions out there somewhere?
    Trudi G

  25. What else happened in 1948? I graduated from high school and bought my first Featherweight on time. Question? While working on this new machine in taking off the top from the feed dogs, why didn't you take off the foot. Would have been so much easier to get into it. That is so like the Featherweight. Love the cabinet.


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  27. I think Olivia is a perfect name.. That is my granddaughter's name.

  28. Anonymous11:04 PM EDT

    Yay, you! What a find, and what a nice, new life you have given Olivia. I was born in 1948, and have my grandmother's c1926 Singer and cabinet. It was electrified some years after she purchased it. It can be sewn electrically or by treadle. Purchased during a good farm crop year, and grandpa purchased his model T pickup truck the same year. Wish I had that.

  29. I have an Elizabeth, who is also a Singer from 1947. She was reclaimed from a garage and needed quite a lot of lint liberation as well.

    She sees like a dream and is so quiet. I love her.


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