Thursday, September 27, 2012

Buttons, buttons...buttons

When I began making my latest shirt, I must admit that buttons were the farthest thing from my mind. I picked the pattern, I dug the fabric out of my stash, and I chose a nice red thread for the assembly. But nope, never did I even consider what buttons I would use.

I usually stick with the plain and simple white, opalescent buttons. They match just about everything and all of my store-bought shirts have come with extras, so I've amassed quite a collection. So, now that the shirt is assembled (I stayed up way too late last night finishing it), I have to make a button choice. I pulled out my stash of buttons (we all have them, I think we secretly hoard them), and I just stared. I narrowed it down to four.

The top is the opalescent standby. This shirt makes a statement, so I'm not certain I want plain Jane buttons. The second button is a milky, variegated  almost translucent white. I like it and it stands out against the red of the fabric. The red button was actually my first color choice. It disappears into the red of the fabric, but really stands out against the white flowers. The last one is almost and off-white, but it doesn't show well in the photo. That button blends the best with the flowers and their internal coloring. I'm really leaning towards that one, with the red as a very close second.

With either of those two buttons, there will be a certain amount of high contrast, depending on where the button holes fall on the placket. And, because I've chosen to use the same red thread used in assembly and the top-stitching for the buttonholes. Therefore, my buttonholes better look perfect. And they will look perfect, because I'll be using my grandmother's 401 and the Singer Professional Buttonholer. That little gizmo makes better buttonholes than any modern machine that I've seen. (Hope I didn't just jinx myself.)

Also, I need to decide if I want to put buttons on the collar, to hold the collar crisply to the shirt, like a typical oxford. When I tried the shirt on last night (and it fits GREAT!), I couldn't decide if I liked the collar falling wherever, or if I liked it better tacked down. I'm leaning towards the tacked down version, even though the pattern doesn't call for it. I'll need to find two smaller buttons in the same color and style as the rest. That task may just make the decision for me.

As soon as this shirt is done, I need to start tearing down and cleaning the Singer 66-1 and cut the fabric for my Halloween costume. It's a boring Roman senator/Caesar pattern, that I hope to jazz up a bit with some fancy stitchery using either the 401 or the modern L-500. The L-500 makes a horrible straight stitch, but its decorative stitches are beautiful. I had to pull out the Featherweight to top-stitch the sleeve cuffs on my shirt; the L-500 just balked at the multiple layers of fabric and interfacing. It's a good thing I bought it used for a third of its retail cost and that it quilts beautifully; otherwise I'd have thrown it out the window.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Current Project

In between rebuilding/restoring my vintage machines, I am actually managing to find some time for sewing. Not a lot of time, mind you, but some time here and there. My current project is a Simplicity 2741 shirt that I actually started a few months ago. I'm working on view 'A', the blue one in the photo.

When I made the first muslin, I traced and cut the pattern based upon the Large/40"-44" chest size; my actual chest measurement is a 42". (Do you know how long I've wanted to say that??? Pre-weight loss it was 54".) Once that muslin was completed and I did the test fit, the shirt was entirely too large - shoulders, chest, waist/gut. I even felt like the sleeves were sails for small ship! I started pinning, marking and adjusting the muslin and realized that too many adjustments would have to be made. I re-cut the pattern using the Medium/38"-40" chest size and it seems to be working much better now.
Simplicity 2741

I've completed the back/yoke/front attachment; added the collar and collar stand. And last night I prepped the cuffs and attached both sleeves. This particular pattern has one of the easiest collar assemblies in my opinion. The instructions and the graphics are straight forward and appear easier to follow than other shirt patterns I have used. Maybe I'm just getting better with experience, but I would recommend this pattern to a a beginner.

And yes, I know the fabric is really 'loud' and obnoxious. I bought this fabric on clearance a few years ago, with the intention of using it in a quilt. But I liked it so much, I really thought it would make a great shirt. Unfortunately, at my size then, the print would have magnified my size and so it sat in the closet to be forgotten. When I went digging through my stash a few weeks ago, I rediscovered it and said 'why not?'.  I have the confidence to wear it now, and if nothing else, I'm sure I could find a luau/beach party to attend and show it off. One thing is for certain, it will be a one of a kind. I'm not afraid of a little color, are you? I hope to finish it this weekend - we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

1926 Singer 99 - Part 1

On a recent north Georgia treasure hunt, I found yet another vintage sewing machine at an incredible price. Well, incredible for me anyway. It is a 1926 Singer 99, complete with the Bentwood case and knee control lever, for a staggering $25!!! That may seem a lot to some of you for an 86 year old sewing machine that needs refurbishing, complete with a total re-wire. But to me, that is a steal! In my local Craigslist, these machines frequently run for much higher, and on eBay the prices are just plain ridiculous. Sure, I'd easily pay $150 for the same machine if it were already refurbished, rewired and in excelled working condition; but no way would I pay that much for a machine where I have to supply the parts and the labor. That takes away from my sewing time!

This is the machine, as found; and now affectionately known as "Ruby". Other than lots of dirt, lint and crumbly wiring, she doesn't look bad for her age at all.

1926 Singer 99

I want to keep this machine as original as possible, with the exception of the wiring. Wiring that is 80+ years old can be scary - brittle, crumbly, and exposed bare wires. All of those things can add up to a painfully dangerous shock, house fire, or worse. And being unable to test the machine's motor, I have to keep in mind that it may need replacing. So the first step was to photograph everything and from multiple angles and begin assessing what parts/materials I would need to restore this machine.

First things to add to the budget, electrical supplies  - $30 for a potential motor replacement; $5-$10 for wiring/cords/soldering supplies/etc. I already had some wire left over from the previous machine's re-wire; I bought it in bulk to save on shipping. Somehow, I knew I would be going down this road again in the future. But I still want to account for it in the 'total cost' of refurbishment. It gives me a good idea of a machine's 'cost of ownership' should I decide to rescue another vintage machine. (And we all know given my current track record, there will be others. I'm perusing Craigslist now as I write this post.)

The internal wiring didn't look too bad on the surface. But, being cloth covered, looks can be deceiving. Upon deeper inspection, I found exposed wires where both the cloth and latex insulator had worn away, and on a few of the end connectors, the wires had broken into separate pieces.
On the surface, wiring 'looks' okay. But it is hard and non-flexible. It has survived past its lifespan.

The yellow tape is to mark which motor wire actually connected to the incoming power. Being a DC motor, I could switch the two motor wires with no ill effects. The yellow-taped one just happens to be longer in order to reach the input connectors. Also, the amount of lint and dust in the electrical compartment was a fire waiting to happen with the exposed, decayed wires.

The motor controller is removed from the case. This controller requires the round-ended knee lever, which I was fortunate in that it came with the machine. Those levers frequently are lost, and sell online for more than most machines are worth.

The BU7 A motor that came with the machine. I did jury-rig a quick set up to test that the motor  powered up and turned over. It did; but I failed to notice the rotational direction; more on that later.

And just in case technology failed me, I made a hand drawing of the wiring to put away with my notes. And even though I back up my photos religiously, I still like tangible hard copies of some things, thus my diagram:

More disassembly to come in the next post.

1950 Singer 99k - Finished

The 1950 Singer 99k is finally finished. All the moving parts have been removed, cleaned, polished, replaced and now operate properly. The motor and foot controller have been re-wired. And the 'bug-eye' light from hell has been re-wired. So, here you go....

1950 Singer 99k in full working glory.
This isn't a really good picture, but if you compare it to the 'before' shot, she's a beauty!

I can't believe this is the same machine as above. 
And to top it all off, shortly after I finished her (aka "Ann"), I found a 1926 Singer 99 (US made) for $25, complete with all the parts and pieces. I've been feverishly working on "Ruby" and thanks to my new friend Michelle donating a few parts, that machine is now finished. I'll post a complete set of rebuild posts for the 1926 Singer 99. I'm really pleased how both of these machines have turned out. I'll try and have those posts up by the end of the week, before I start on my next projects.

Next on the list: 1914 Singer 66-1 "Red Eye". I've been lusting after a Red-Eye machine for a while, and found one at the right price. Once she's done, I'll place her in the treadle where she can be appreciated on a daily basis.

And as luck would have it, I stumbled upon a 1957 Singer 401A at a yard sale last Friday. Yes, it came home with me; I couldn't help myself. But that machine is fully intended to be refurbished and re-sold. I already have my grandmother's 401, so I don't really need two of them. And then of course, there's the 1951 Centennial Edition Featherweight 221 that found its way to my house as well. Sigh. I swear I'm not addicted, honest.  Well, okay, maybe a little bit. But at least it keeps me busy and out of the refrigerator. Good Lord, candy corn is calling my name.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Still breathing...

Though I haven't written in a while, I am still around. I've mostly been trying to keep myself preoccupied with various projects so as not to worry about the twins all the time. It seems as though that may be a task in futility.

The twins themselves seem to be staying out of trouble, but the rest of that household is in pure chaos. My 20-year old adopted brother, who still lives at home, has 'knocked-up' his girlfriend. In and of itself, not the end of the world...until you find out that the girlfriend is only 13!!! OK. FIRST, my brother knows better. Period. No debating that one. SECOND, what parent in their right mind allows their 13 year-old daughter to a) date, b) date someone 20 years old, and c) be alone with said 20 year-old?????? Now my brother is in jail for statutory rape, the girl is 13 and pregnant (not a t.v. show I want to see) - and who will suffer the most? The innocent, unborn child who has no say so in his/her life. Please God, allow the child to be born healthy and safely, and to be adopted by loving parents.

Now on to a positive note, the twins are working harder in school. I think both of them realize what better lives they would have outside of their current home, and hopefully they are learning that education is part of it. Having spent time with my sisters this summer, and being back in communication with me, they are seeing that life can be so much more than what the have; not just materialistically, but better in every sense of the world. And I know that doesn't necessarily mean better with me, but with anyone who actually cares and puts the boys best interests to the front of the line. I really hope they are allowed to spend Thanksgiving with us (Mom's adult kids). I think the more time they spend with us, especially at big holidays, they will see that families can be loving and functional. From my lips, to God's ears.

On the "Things that keep me Sane" front - I'm working on a few new shirts. Trying to test fit patterns, before I go head-first into sewing too many that don't fit properly. You'd be surprised at how mind-calming sewing can be, even when you stick yourself for the one-hundredth time with a pin! The quilt top is finished, and sandwiched. I can't decide how I want to quilt it - so it has been moved to the "thinking" pile. (That pile never seems to shrink.)

I recently added an embroidery machine to my "herd". I bought it used and have already made a few "gifts" with it. Christmas presents should be easy decisions this year! And with this new machine, I have decided that my machines are breeding. But I did sell one of my vintage machines - a Singer Slant 301. It was (is) a great machine, but needed a new home as I haven't used it in over a year and it needs to be used by someone who loves and appreciates it. I learned that its new owner will use it to teach her grandchildren how to sew, including her grandson. Since my Nana taught me to sew, I thought this would be a perfect use for this machine. And of course, wouldn't you know machine left the house, and then I found another one, for less than a tank of gas less than a week's worth of lunch at Subway. It's another Singer 99 portable, but this one is from 1926 and was complete. It'll need a complete overhaul, with wiring, etc. I'll try and do a better job of chronicling that one.

Until the next post, Peace with you all.