Sunday, November 2, 2014

House Calls

With advances in technology we no longer have many repair people who come into our homes. We used to have phone, appliance, physician or nurse, pharmacy delivery among many but now we can bring so many things into shops for repair or handle over the phone or even Skype. Some things that have gone away have come back, such as grocery store delivery but that is due to ordering online and capturing the market share. But now I find I make house calls to see about sick sewing machines.

A few weeks ago I sold a Singer 401A, in cabinet, to Joyce who was very happy to get this classic sewing machine home and get sewing.

Singer 401A Joyce bought from me. 
She had many other sewing machines but just had to have this one and I had to agree it's one of the best. A week later I get a phone call and email from Joyce: she can't get the machine to perform the pattern stitches, either built in or cam generated. We agreed to have a phone conference to walk her through the process. It only took about 30 minutes to find out I needed to see her sewing machine and how we might get it to perform the way she expects. A small part of the problem was in reading the language in an old manual: their term embroidery meant free motion with the feed dogs down whereas Joyce thought it meant any of the decorative stitches. I also think the decorative stitches look like embroidery but back when these machines were made those extra stitches were not embroidery. If you want an embroidery sewing machine today you are looking at something that can fill a space the size of a hoop with stitches, not just an edging. So once the feed dogs were in the up position they could work properly. Now those cams: snapping into place and getting them to work takes a bit of learning.
The cams fit into the round opening

Here are 6 that come with most 401's
 With the 401 you need to move the dials for stitch selection so the top dial, that controls A-J, is pushed in and turned and the bottom dial that controls K-S is pulled towards you. If you are going to put a cam in you need to get the little levers that "read," or follow the cam as it turns, out of the way so the cam snaps down in place firmly. The way you get the levers out of the way is to move the red stitch width lever to 0 or left and to pull the bottom stitch selector dial towards you. Keep your left hand on the bottom dial pulled out  and insert the cam with your right hand. Snap! It's in place and you can now move the dial in your left hand to "special" to engage the cam reader. The top stitch dial needs to be turned to B for the cams. It sounds complex but you just have to take a deep breath and think it through. It will become automatic in time.

Along with a quick lesson on her Singer 401, I got to see Joyce's Singer 319, the one with typewriter keys on top! Here's a stock photo of one:

Singer 319 (not Joyce's)
It looks like a 306 and I mentioned it but Joyce corrected me and we had to take a look. Here's what the top looks like with those crazy keys:
Singer 319's "keys"
She said it wasn't working right and by looking at the stitches she was making I could see it needed to be threaded properly. The main problem was to make sure the tension disks were engaged and I demonstrated a little trick I had learned: thread with the presser foot UP, thread as the illustrations show but make sure it almost clicks into the tension disks, before threading the needle test the tension by pulling the thread: it should move easily, then put the presser foot down and pull the thread and it should only pull a little and then stop so now you know it's engaged. Finish threading, check bobbin, pull bobbin thread up to the top and start to sew. Perfect little stitches once one of those keys was in position. Joyce knew more about those keys than I did so she showed me how they worked but, like her, I would need the manual to really know what I was doing.

A lesson for Joyce and a lesson for me: I call that a win-win. It just goes to show you that vintage sewing machine people are just the most interesting people around and I'm glad to be a part of this movement!

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