Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Can you wash Singer buttonholer cases in the dishwasher?

Here at the DragonPoodle Test Kitchen, we seek to answer the questions it would NEVER occur to you to ask.

Such as this one:  Can you wash Singer buttonholer cases in the dishwasher?
As mentioned before, I am always looking for the easy way out.  That is NOT a good personality trait for someone who collects vintage sewing machines, btw.

before, obviously
after, just as obviously

The answer is a resounding YES.  Finally, something was easy.  There was minor paint loss off of the button snaps on the front, but nothing I couldn't live with.

I have quite a collection of buttonholers, including a green and a pink Jetson.  I did NOT put those in the dishwasher.  They have smooth surfaces and didn't need it, plus I was chicken.  I love those things.

I ran them on a regular cycle, and about halfway through I opened up the dishwasher and flipped them upside down.  I took them out before the rinse and dry cycles.  I wanted to spare myself the scrubbing but not stress them out too badly.

The green ones are for low shank machines, and will work on ANY brand low shank machine, straight stitch OR zig-zag.  The red ones are for slant shank machines, also straight (Singer 301) or zig-zag (400, 500, 600 series.  Even beyond, if you are foolish enough to venture into the later Touch 'N Swears).

Did you know that all of these work on straight or zig-zag machines?  I didn't, until I started messing around with them in preparation for bestowing a 401 on a friend of the DD.

Did you know that this model and the Jetsons model are identical except for the housing (metal housing in the rectangular boxes, plastic housing in the Jetsons boxes).  Just remember to set your machine for straight stitching and let the buttonholer do all the zig-zagging by itself.

They make beautiful buttonholes.  You do need to stitch out some tests on your fabric. Play around with the width settings and tension.  Use stabilizer.  Just like machine embroidery, when in doubt use MORE stabilizer.  It really is easy if you are willing to take a bit of time up front to test stitch.

There's a later model that came in a cardboard box, and its mechanism is different.  It has plastic cams and has 20 of them, versus the 10 available for the earlier ones.  I just love me some vintage Singer buttonholers. 

And, speaking of mechanically washing vintage sewing items, a fellow showed up briefly on one of the boards and described how he had cleaned some treadle irons:  he put them in the back of his truck and drove through the car wash.

You can imagine for yourself the HOWLS of OUTRAGE that greeted his comment.  Needless to say, he has never been heard from again.

So be gentle with those less knowledgeable than yourselves.  Or St. Peter may greet YOU with a howl of outrage when you meet him at the Pearly Gates.  and you would never be heard from again.

We would miss you.  You DO know that there are hand cranks in heaven, don't you?  The treadles are too heavy, they would fall out of the bottom of the clouds.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Recent Graduates of the DragonPoodle School of Anarchic Sewing

School Motto:  Patterns?  We don't need no stinkin' patterns.

You met Michael back in July.  He came over for a third and final studio session, in which he proceeded full speed and I puttered around the studio.  He reports that he completed a third pillow at home.

Patterns were never an option.  He brought a pillow form and knew what he wanted to do.

btw, this is another post that was written earlier in the summer.  That ole Life has been acting up again, so I haven't spent much time in blogland recently.

The Totally Out Of The Blue Surprise Student:  DD Emily

Em was here for a visit and because she is a good daughter she lets me talk about my sewing machines.  I think the whole family is bemused by the sheer quantity of machines that have come to live here.  Em tried sewing in high school and did not fall under its spell.

She spotted a little Singer 99 with the crinkle or "godzilla" finish and was immediately attracted to it in the midst of all the shiny black ones.   She walked over to it and turned the hand crank and was a goner.

She spent the next two days sewing (amongst the family visiting) and she left with a lovely tote bag.  She also, needless to say, left with the 99.  And its cabinet.  Mother love is a powerful force, more powerful than sewing machine love.

We did briefly consider using a pattern but that didn't last long.

The fabric she choose was one she had given me years ago, a plush upholstery weight fabric.  Because the tote was for her kindle and netbook she wanted padding, so she lined it with a prequilted solid yellow.  The straps are a repurposed metal belt.  All of these were thrift shop finds.

And if you are thinking that it was a crazy thing to do to take a formerly sewing averse person and encouraging her in her desire to make a tote bag with upholstery fabric and a quilted lining as a first project on a new machine, well, this IS the DragonPoodle School of ANARCHIC Sewing.

Emily did almost all of the sewing.  We broke a couple of needles, probably because I never remembered to upgrade the needle size from a 14.  The last seam, in which we encased the raw edges of the inside seam in bias tape, was a toughie and at the end Emily turned it over to me.   The Singer 99 lived up to its reputation as a small workhorse. 

This is why I collect old Singers: 1) they are wonderful and 2) reading about them and experiencing them are two entirely different things.  The feel of the 99 as it tackled the multiple layers of heavy material will stay with me.  I now totally get the 99 and especially get why people love to hand crank a 99.  Awesome experience, awesome machine.

Prior to all this, in preparation for Em's visit, I took a break from sewing machine repair to do some cleaning.  I announced to the DH that all the sewing machines and tools were gone from the top of the workbench (aka the dining room table).

His response:  Will you give me a map?
Me, with my usual verbal elegance: Huh?
Him:  Without the usual landmarks, how will I find my way through the house?


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hot Fun In The Summertime. Fools Rush In.

Hot Fun In The Summertime
(This took place last month. I guess the heat cooked my brain and I forgot to publish this post!) 
It was 104 in the shade.  Who knows how hot a black cast iron sewing machine gets when it sits in the full sun?  Perfect for freeing up a sluggish machine.

I've worked on this little 99 a couple of times before, the first time when I got it.  Cleaned the lint out, oiled it, tried it with the motor, didn't like it.  Put a hand crank on it, and I liked it.  Months later I tried it with the hand crank and it was hard to turn.  Oil improved it only slightly.  So when the first round of 100 plus temps hit I put it out in the sun and sprayed it several times a day with PB Blaster.  It took a while, but eventually it was turning freely.  Brought it back in, a week later it was sluggish again.

Did you spot the error in procedure above?  I'll wait while you go back and figure it out.

I should have followed up the PB Blaster with sewing machine oil.  By not doing this, the remaining crud and PB Blaster hardened and gummed it up again.  Lesson learned.

In the meantime, I discovered the sewing machine repair manual at Tools For Self Reliance.  The machines they find useful in Africa are the cast iron Singers, specifically the 66, 99, 15 and 201.  The manual illustrates how to refurbish these machines.  With its help I removed the bobbin case on this and another 99.  Pretty yucky in there.  I should have taken the hook out also but I chickened out.  End result:  machine was still sluggish.

This time I stuck with sewing machine oil only, oiling all the movement points every time I took the poodles out.  After the first day it was turning freely, and after a night in the AC it was only hanging slightly.  After two days it was still turning well in the morning after a night in the air conditioning.  Day three and when I spun the hand wheel it kept on spinning.  

Fools Rush In
I confess, what I am really seeking is a magic wand.  I want the crud on the exterior of beautifully decalled sewing machines to simply disappear.  Without spending 20 hours to make it disappear.  Without destroying the decals.

I've tried a bunch of stuff, most of it worked, all of it took a lot of effort, and in every case you have to be super careful of the decals.  I want the magic crud-melter.  I recently read that someone uses a kerosene soak for this.  I consulted the treadle on board, and nobody really recommended it.  Did that stop me?  ha!

First problem:  I didn't have kerosene.  what I did have was a couple of bottles of lamp oil.  same thing, right?  well, apparently not.  did that stop me?  ha!

Second problem:  a couple of bottles of lamp oil is not enough to cover a sewing machine.  I thought that if I had the whole thing bagged up, I could squeeze the air our and it would be covered.  well, no.  dtsm? ha!

assembling the tools:  tall trash can, heavy duty plastic bag, and scrubbies

a layer of bubble wrap pads the bottom of the trash can

The plan:  heavy duty trash bag hopefully will not puncture and leak out all the lamp oil.  Did it actually work that way? hah!

The plan: scrubbies are spacers so the bag does not stick to the machine in critical areas.  Did it actually work that way?  Guess...
air bags and more bubble wrap are stuffed down inside the trash can to push the sides of the bag in so that it won't take as much lamp oil.

The end result:  the lamp oil came about halfway up on the side of the machine.  I couldn't squeeze the bag together enough to get it to cover the machine.  I decided to let it sit for a couple of days out in the heat to see what happened.  Maybe it would explode and burn all the crud off.

Why do this against all advice and basic common sense?  It was 104 and the heat wave had been here off and on for weeks.  Going out was no fun.  Staying in was no fun.  Maybe exploding a sewing machine in the front yard would provide some diversion.

End result?  The sewing machine survived.  The gunk coating it survived.  The decals survived.  It was perhaps a teensy bit easier to clean the gunk off the half of the machine that had been soaking in kerosene for three days during a North Carolina heatwave.

Would I ever do this again?  You must be joking.  Do I regret it?  Not for a single minute.  This is a hobby.  It is supposed to be fun and if I'm not having fun I just don't do it.  I don't mind making a complete fool of myself.  I did it just for you, you know, so that you would be spared from making the same long chain of foolish decisions.  Seriously.

No sewing machines, front yards, or tall trash cans were harmed during the production of this blog. Even the scrubbies survived unscathed.