Thursday, January 25, 2018

Love You Like a Brother

Maybe this post is not so much about how I love the Brother 1241 sewing machine but my general love of the older Brother models. It started out simply trying to get the excess noise out of the machine only to figure out it had a broken part, several parts it turned out.

Most of the noise was coming from the hook race and I could see there was too much play. After trying out substitute parts I finally discovered there was a broken flange that acted like a tension spring to keep things in place:

Broken part on left to be replaced with donor part on right

Hook with part removed

New part screwed into place with race added on right side
I kept looking for a replacement part that was similar to the one I needed only to find out it was broken on both ends and was pretty generic. Those screws were pretty tiny but not too bad to get into place and then everything was so nice and quiet! I thought I was done and then I noticed it didn't zigzag. And then I noticed the zigzag gear was missing the actual gear:
Zigzag gear with broken section
I had one in stock and it was all metal so quite the win-win to be replaced with a better part but it's never as easy as I might hope. There was just too much play in the needle bar and I could see there was just something missing.
Zigzag part the was too loose
I checked other sewing machines, a Brother Select-o-Matic was similar, but what and where was the part? There it was, resting on part of the casting inside of the machine:
And where it should fit:
And now in place:
From the side view:
No more excess play in the needle bar! Now I'll need to get the swing of the zigzag timed correctly but that's another story. Both of the parts that were broken or missing were so small as to not be noticed but made a significant difference. In the end I'm confident it's going to work and work well. Whew! I'll keep you posted when it's finally done and add a photo at the end. Nice sewing machine that should work for another 50 years? Let's hope so!

Sunday, January 21, 2018


One of the more beautiful sewing machines is the Necchi Lydia, designed in Italy, an oh so sleek and appealing:
Necchi Lydia 544
Many of us have fallen prey to its beauty only to be lured into a relationship that wasn't going to be. In an earlier post, Vacation in Paradise, I tell how I bought a Lydia MK2 only to find its fatal flaw early on: a cracked camstack. It sits on a high shelf with other parts machines and I can say I enjoy looking at it but I buy sewing machines for practical use, not beauty. How did I let this happen again?
I found a Necchi Lydia 544 at a resell shop for a price I couldn't resist and the camstack wasn't crumbling so it came home with me. It did have a broken hook gear and I looked into purchasing a new one for about $50 but then reason took over. In the meantime, I bid and won another Lydia 544 and this one did come with a cracked camstack but also a nice set of hook gears. Perfect! But now I've been working for weeks to get this machine to actually form a stitch. Here's a bit of the saga of how this proceeded.

Here's the set of gears that needed replacing:

Hook drive gears in black
Of course, it's never just replacing the gears but also adjusting the feed dogs and their timing:
Feed dog mechanism (see hook gears on bottom)
But the Lydia has their angled hook gear with many, many adjustments:
Bobbin case on hook (doesn't look angled!)
There's depth, angle, and other little bits that can bee too close or too far apart:
Bobbin case (very angled)
As I said, after a few weeks of working on it, I now need the workspace so I reluctantly put it back together and set it aside. This feels like failure but I know it can be helpful to keep thinking about it and looking at it later with fresh eyes. All right, it is failure but I need to move on.

The big warning that is given with replacing gears on the Lydia is the progression of deterioration. You might replace the hook gear(s) only to find the gear that drives the camstack needs replacing, then the motor pulley, then the camstack itself... you can see this is a slippery slope when the same material is used in these gears and they are all aging out. Although I understand this I'm still drawn to its beauty and the hope of getting it running again.

As I made space available I got out a serger and put it to use refashioning an item of clothing. I bought this large pair of lounging type pants in hope of making them over into leggings. Here's how they looked half way done:
Flowing pants to leggings
Those were one wide pair of pants! I needed to take in the waist more and they are super long but very soft fabric and not too bad when they were finished. This lead to tackling the pile of mending that is about halfway done but it's game day in Minnesota and we have the Vikings in the playoffs. To say we are optimistic is a bit of an understatement as we are completely nuts over the prospect of our home team playing in the Super Bowl let alone on home turf. So what an I doing about this? Why, making Viking hot mitts, of course. Later, gator...
Hot mitts ready to sew (they really are purple!)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Let's Get Cranky

I've had a hand crank sewing machine listed recently and it has brought about a fair amount of interest. Looking back over my posts about hand cranks I see I really don't have much documented so now is the time to write up what I know about hand crank sewing machines and converting to hand crank.

Why would someone want to sew by that laborious method of cranking the wheel by hand? Doesn't that give you just one hand to guide the fabric? How would this ever be an advantage? It seems to me you would want to go with a slow pace when you are quilting and looking for precision that only comes with carefully preceding slowly that you can only get with a hand crank. I don't know of an electric machine that would let you go that slow, even with a speed reducer as some of the machines boast. Needle down is perfect as you land on the intersection of corners while piecing fabric for a quilt square. It's true that you only have one hand to guide but when you are going slow that is less of an issue. When I treadle I have more trouble stopping-on-a-dime and that does not occur when using a hand crank machine.

I've also used and sold hand crank sewing machines for use with children and this prevents them from "wild sewing" where they like to think they can race to the end but find out you can't sew straight when you go too fast and fingers get mixed up when you are speeding. A hand crank sewing machine slows everything down and the curious start to wonder how this is actually working. Curiosity might just fuel a budding engineer to ask questions and investigate and isn't that how many of us got started in our love for vintage sewing machines?

How do you convert an old sewing machine to a hand crank version? Maybe you can but maybe you can't and the Treadleon people know all about it. On their page about converting to hand cranks, they show options you might want to consider. I keep it simple by choosing Singer 99 or 66's, adding a spoked wheel if they don't already have one, and adding the hand crank mechanism via the motor boss. What is a motor boss? It's a place on the side of the machine under the hand wheel where you can screw in that crank mechanism:
Motor boss in casting with threaded opening
It makes sense in the end but sounds confusing when you are starting out but think of it like this: when the motor is removed and you add the hand crank how are you going to get it to stay on the machine? You need to anchor it onto the side and using a threaded slot gives it stability.
Motor attached to the motor boss
Can't we just add a "knob" onto the side of a hand wheel? Take a look at an original hand crank sewing machine and you will see it is not quite that easy:
German hand crank: pretty complex mechanism
Treadleon does give ideas of how to make a solid hand wheel work with a reproduction crank but I haven't tried any of them so I can only direct you to their website. With my repainted Singer 99 that I added the hand crank, I have now been asked to add a motor back so it can be used either way. I dug up a motor, light, and foot control set and got it all working again.

Singer 99 repaint with motor
As with many of the Singer 99's that are converted to hand cranks, you cannot adjust the bobbin winding mechanism enough for the winding wheel to touch the handwheel. I've added plastic tubing in the past but this time I came up with a set of black rubber belts that would fit over the part of the hand wheel that isn't qite fat enough to touch the bobbin winding tire. I wish I could show you but the photos are black on black and you cannot see it clearly so you are just going to have to trust me on this one! In the end, this little repaint is going to a good home where there are children who are sewing light leather projects. It's cute, solid, and portable so I hope it fits the bill for them:
Singer 99 repaint as a hand crank
Happy sewing!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


In the midst of a warm-up this week, I put away the outdoor Christmas decoration and removed the items hanging on the windows of the porch. This gave me time to really look at the Christmas stockings we had and to see how we could improve upon the situation. There were stockings with names, half without names, some small, some ridiculously large, and one baby girl stocking. I remember much confusion this past Christmas eve when my husband, who is in charge of the stockings, couldn't remember whose was whose if they didn't have names on them. So we looked over the lot, decided on the keepers, and figured out who we were missing: all of the young men who have married into the family. It was too late to get this item at the stores since they were long gone in the after Christmas sales, so I looked to see if I could find some online. Yes, for about $24-45. Are you kidding? Next I looked up ideas for Christmas stockings for men and came up with an idea that I thought might just work: gray wool with white trim. I dug out my gray wool, matched it up with a nice wool plaid, then went to work on how to make them special for these young men in our lives.

Machine embroidery! I've been wanting to get back into it and this was the perfect excuse. We discussed various images that the guys would find representative of their interests and came up with deer hunting, fishing, and ... well, the last one is too new so we settled on a Christmas tree. Although there are free designs available, I ended up buying a package of ten images for fishing to get the right one. Using my Viking Designer 1 and SewWhat Pro software, I started out with the deer hunting image first but ended up with several tries:
Three tries
The first image was too small but it gave me an idea about the colors I could use. The second one was the right size but I discovered you actually do need to use stabilizer on each and every project, plus gold thread was not the best of choices. By the third time I was satisfied with the end result so we are keeping that one.
Final deer stocking
As for the fisherman, it was a silhouette so only black thread was needed: easy!
Fisherman stocking
There was a bit of a snafu on the Christmas tree stitching so I had to stop, pull out threads, and start over with a darker color. It's a pretty subtle effect but looks fine in the end.
Christmas tree stocking
As for piping around the edge, one got cream, one a wired red twisted cord, and one was self-made. The printed ribbon was made into piping with the aid of a zipper foot and was applied to the stocking with this foot. For the first stage of the project, I was pleased with the results. Now for the wool plaid "cuff" around the top: I wanted to add their name on each one but I'm not up to using machine embroidery this time. I decided to hand embroider their names using a font from a MS Word printout, traced with waxy tailors marking square, and stitched with light gray wool.They got assembled last night and had their photo shoot this morning:
Son-in-laws Christmas stockings
I'm pleased with the result and now have a plan for adding names to the other stockings by using the Word printout to trace names and stitch up, maybe not with wool but with floss since they look a bit more elegant in their tapestry fabric. I'm going to be so happy next Christmas when those stockings come out, all ready to go, with everyone accounted for. What about those additions to the family? We have an extra stocking for the grandkids and I set aside the a set of wool and plaid for another son-in-law that just might join the family in the future. Here we come, 2018!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Something New

Along with repairing sewing machines, I still like to sew and find ways to carry out these creative urges. A whole week at home gave me three opportunities to try out a few new ideas. First to try was the nifty new microwave bowl holders that I got from Mary Sue. She very graciously sent me her instructions for using 100% cotton towels to cut and sew up holders that can be used in the microwave. Although she specifically said she used cotton towels from JC Penny's I figured 100% cotton was 100% cotton. Not so because my first try with a towel labeled 100% cotton melted in the microwave! I only had the base stitched together with two layers of toweling and even using 100% cotton thread while I watched it carefully and kept checking it while in the microwave. Glad I did because I noticed it was getting warm and the base was turning dark so I snatched it out before flames erupted. Back to square one, I read her instructions again and went to JC Penny's and bought two towels from the Home Quick Dri Textured Bath Towels collection. Figuring Mary Sue knew what she was talking about, I now followed her instructions to the letter, taking out the hems and cutting into ten inch squares. Darts are made, the two sides are quilted together, and bias tape is used to finish it off. Just to make sure the bias was 100% cotton I bought new fabric since I couldn't be sure fabric in my stash was flameproof. I made up a couple for work and they tried them out with success:
Microwave bowl holders: reversible

In action!
Two bath towels will make up 15 of these bowl holders so I think I'm in business! Next up were felted slippers. This came about via guilt when a friend sent me two bags of wool yarn at the cost of $15 for postage! I needed to do something with it but what would I use that could be tolerated in 100% wool? Checking out a variety of patterns for felting, I came across a free pattern for slippers that looks about right. Although the pattern wasn't difficult they are made super large because they are going to be shrunk  or felted with hot water when the knitting was complete. Here's how they look before hot water:
Slippers pre-washing

They are huge! But here's the result after the hot water treatment:
Slippers after 3 washings in hot water by machine
They are still huge! What did I do wrong? Online advice is to keep washing them but I can see they are felting but not shrinking. I've been to Le Sueur, MN, home of the Jolly Green Giant and I think I have his next pair of slippers. Back to the drawing board with this one.

My last project was a free shirt pattern that just looked so cute I wanted to give it a try. Since I'm a bit obsessed with lace, I decided to try making it with black knit and white lace but I didn't have enough of the black to make the front, back, and sleeves. Although I chose lace for the contrast, I wasn't sure if I could switch the knit sleeves to a woven lace fabric and still get any kind of comfort. We were going to find out.

This pattern was the Bee Shirt, a free pattern I saw on Sewing4Free. It was a free download but with 24 pages that were not numbered, it was a puzzle to put together. In the end, the sleeves were too narrow and long so I just used a sleeve from another pattern. It went together easily with most of the sewing done on a serger, a Bernina 1100D, and only the hemming on a regular sewing machine, using my Viking Designer 1. I used an old sheer lace tablecloth for the lace and it had such a nice border that I had to try and use it along the hem:
Bee shirt in process with border edge of lace
I had to cut the armholes bigger but that might have been due to the substitute sleeve pattern yet it easily pulled over my head and felt comfortable to wear. The lace sleeves made it too fancy to wear to work but I could see it with pants or capris for summer wear. Would I make it again? You bet but next time I would add a bit of length to the front. Easy and free: what a combination!
Bee Shirt back

Bee Shirt front