Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Herd: Zig-Zaggers

This post is simply a photo inventory of some of the zig-zaggers and simple cam machines in my herd.  Useful for me to see them all in one place.  If you like photos of vintage machines, then enjoy!

In the early days of the collecting craze, I bought this green Aldens machine.  It takes cams, but zig-zags without them.  Which is good because I have never found the cams for it.


I find Singer 237's often, and buy them almost as often.  This model is zig-zag only (no cams).   It's a versatile machine because it can be treadled, hand cranked, or used with the motor it was born with.  The 237's were made in Italy. 

Singer 237

The Singer 328 zig-zags and takes the standard flat cams.  I've got another one in battleship gray.  I think they are every bit as retro-stylish as the legendary Singer 500, aka the Rocketeer.  The 500 was TOL (top of the line) and this one was a budget model. 

Singer 328

I bought my first sewing machine in 1968, a model 348 very similar to this 338.  It lasted until 2000 and probably only needed motor maintenance then.  Sadly I got rid of it.  But now I have a couple of these lovely aqua cam zig-zaggers.

Singer 338

The Singer 347 is another aqua machine which zig-zags, but does not take cams.

Singer 347
The Universal MZ is the latest addition to the zig-zagger herd.  I bought it for the teal color.  Mmmm, teal.....

Universal MZ

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lady Kenmore 89, a Pfaff 280 in disguise

I always plan to blog more--then don't.  One of my plans has always been to focus on some of the machines in the herd.  Here's a real beauty:  the Lady Kenmore 89.

the actual color is a pinky beige.  definitely beige, but with pinky tendencies that don't really show up in this photo

Among Kenmore enthusiasts, this is the Holy Grail of Kennies.  In fact, when I first joined the vintage kenmore yahoo group, the subtitle of the group was "home of the Lady Kenmore 89 picture", and the photo of this lovely model was the home page photo of the group.

You can sew with this as a stand-alone (without cabinet or case).   If you don't care about the metal feet scratching your work surface.

Sadly, the name "Kenmore" usually evokes yawns rather than gasps of awe (except among those diehard Kennie fans).  If you can overlook the un-sexy name, and if you are not the kind of person who is swayed by the opinion of the masses, you can find some truly awesome vintage machines badged as "Kenmore".  Sears, who sold and still sells Kenmore appliances, never manufactured anything themselves.  Instead, they contracted with manufacturers to supply them with products under the Kenmore label.

In this case the manufacturer was Gritzner in West Germany, and they made an identical model which was sold by Pfaff as the model 280.  Now Pfaff is a VERY sexy name in the vintage sewing world. 

When I bought this machine it was in the usual vintage shape:  dirty, and completely frozen up.  I bought it for the cabinet (shown below) and knew absolutely nothing about the machine.  As I began to work on it it became immediately obvious to me that I had found a real treasure.  It's that legendary German engineering.

And, like most vintage machines, once the thread tangles were removed it responded quickly to oiling.  Freeing the cam stack was the biggest challenge, but now all of the functional and decorative stitches work perfectly.

If you are considering a cam stack machine, be sure to take the cover off and rotate the cam stack through a complete turn, checking for cracks (this machine has no cracks in the cam stack).  The machine may still work with a crack in the stack, but it is on the way to failure and may be difficult or impossible to find a replacement.  Since this one is in tip-top shape I haven't had to look for one and can't comment on availability.

The Lady Kenmore 89 has everything you might long for in a vintage sewing machine:  all metal construction (except for the cam stack).  Feed dog drop.  Twin needle capability.  Class 15 bobbin.  Left-center-right needle position.  And all those lovely decorative stitches.  I'm a complete sucker for decorative stitches.  

This machine came with the original manual and all of the original high shank presser feet.  And the awesome desk style cabinet that attracted me in the first place.  Now, when I say "awesome" I am referring to the functionality of it.  Drawers!  Leaves on both sides!  Fabulous work surface.

Cosmetically, it looks like most vintage sewing machine cabinets:  could be better.

It has a spring assist that is tremendously helpful in getting the machine up and down from stored to working position.  With the machine removed, the spring is lifting up the left side of the top, as shown in the photo above.  With the machine installed the top lies flush and flat.

This was my go-to machine for a year, and I loved and still love it.  But the cabinet in all its awesomeness just didn't work out in my studio, where every square inch matters.  Those fold out leaves blocked pathways.  I now sew on a German Singer 316G which I have installed in a Singer Hampden Court cabinet.  But that's a story for another time.