Friday, January 23, 2015

A Singer 500A Joins the Herd, and Brings Some Much Needed Therapy

It's 2:00 a.m, and I'm wide awake. I should have known this would happen - I went to bed just after 9pm, and I don't usually sleep for more than a few hours at a time. I can't remember the last time I slept a solid 7-8 hours. But the nice thing is, the house is quiet - Michel and the birds are sleeping - so it's a good time to write about another machine I recently refurbished.

Back during the Spring, a customer asked me to be on the look-out for a Singer 500 (aka, Rocketeer) for her daughter as a Christmas present. She had purchased the Singer 403 from me, and was now hooked on the Slant series machines. I found one at a locally advertised estate sale, where they also had five other machines - two of which were gorgeous treadles. But alas, since I acquired my Eldredge Two Spool, I've run out of room for more treadles. I bought the Rocketeer, complete with the original cabinet, accessory box and manual for a great price, especially given the "cult" status that these machines seems to be gaining. There was also a non-matching sewing chair with storage in another part of the house. I still kick myself in the behind for not getting it; it was priced just a few dollars more than the machine and cabinet; and I can always use an extra sewing bench.

I removed the machine head from the cabinet; disassembled the cabinet and loaded her into the trunk of my sedan. (I really need a truck for this things.) From first appearances, she didn't look too bad, though it was evident she had spent several years relegated to the non-climate controlled basement apartment, while the "newer" Singer Stylist took her place as the previous owner's primary machine.

But under closer inspection, the vast majority of the machine's surface looked like this:
I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again - I love the GoJo non-pumice hand cleaner. It is gentle, yet effective.

I didn't test the 500's motor before I made the purchase. I rarely test electric machines out in the wild; God knows when the last time they were used, and in what condition the wiring may be in. I always assume the power and foot cords will need replacing, and I am pleasantly surprised when that isn't the case. I tested the machine when I returned home. OUCH! The motor sounded horrible. But I recognized the sound...the upper bearing grease was dried out. It helps when you've had the same issue before.  I also tried running through the built-in stitch patterns, but the selector knobs where stuck and gummed up from old oil. After going through and assessing what needed to be repaired, replaced and serviced, I called the customer and we agreed upon a price and a time-frame.

Since I had a copy of the Service Manual for this machine, I decided that I would completely remove the entire top-end stitch selector mechanism. It was intimidating at first, but with the manual by my side, and my grandmother's 401 as backup, it went rather well. It was much easier to clean out the old, dried, gummed oil with each part removed and soaked in an industrial cleaner. I'm now planning on doing this to my grandmother's machine in the near future.

With the manual in hand, I also decided to completely remove the hook and bobbin assembly. I'm always leery about doing that, especially on geared machines where the mesh is set at the factory. But again, following the manual's guidelines, it went smoothly. I wish I had taken a before picture of the bobbin area; it was horrendous.

It took about a good week and a half to completely finish the overhaul. I serviced the motor, as well as replaced the power cord, cleaned and adjusted the foot controller and I even waxed and polished the cabinet.

Once I test stitched the machine in, I decided to finally make the quilt top out of my dad's old shirts. I had been putting this project off, because in my mind, it really drove home the fact that Dad was gone.  But something said it was time, and this machine was the one to do it.

The machine performed flawlessly, and making that quilt top was more therapeutic than I could have ever imagined. It was just a simple rail fence pattern, but every block sparked a memory - some good, some not so good. The quilt made me realize just how much I miss my dad every day. And it made me grateful for the things I learned from my dad. He taught me how to rebuild old car motors, which in a way, sparked my love for all things old and mechanical - especially sewing machines.  And working on this machine was therapeutic as well. It had been a while since I had done a complete tear down and rebuild; and this machine kept my mind busy through November and the anniversary of Dad's passing. Here's the quilt top:

Once completely satisfied the machine was ready for its new home, I called the customer. The final price was less than we had agreed upon in my estimate. About two days later, she called and said she no longer wanted the machine. To say I was irritated is an understatement. So, the Singer 500 has now joined the herd until I decide to list it for sale. It may just stay permanently - every time I walk by it, I now think of Dad and how much better I feel now with the help of that machine. Maybe the customer backing out of the deal was a sign. I'll take it as such.

I'm making Michel a nice button-down shirt with it now. It's McCall's 6044. I've made it before, but this time I'm trying version B, without the pocket; Michel said "no pocket".

Until next time, smile randomly at someone you meet and make their day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Just in Time for Winter

In addition to sewing, some of my other hobbies include spinning (natural fibers into yarn, NOT the exercise craze) and knitting. About two years ago I started a pair of fingerless gloves, made from some store-bought hand-spun Alpaca. I finished the right-hand glove rather quickly, began the left-hand glove and promptly lost the pattern. Seriously. So, I packed away the yarn and the unfinished project into the bowels of the craft closet never to be seen again. Or so I thought.

While I was cleaning the craft room last week, low and behold, guess what turned up? You guessed it - that Fingerless Gloves pattern. Great, I thought, now I have to dig through and clean up the other closet. Heavy sigh. Cleaning and organizing just isn't my thing. It was my mom's. My sisters both inherited it; but it totally skipped me. Well, I tackled the closet, because I knew that one glove and yarn was in there some where. A few hours, and a few discoveries later (when did I buy that fabric???), I found the ZipLoc bag with the one glove, the yearn and the started, but God knows which row I was on, other glove.

I ripped out the unfinished glove. Trying to figure out where I left off was a task that requires the patience of Job. I have no patience; okay, very little patience. I'm happily knitting along - cuff is done, thumb gusset is done, just about to start the fingers. Damn! I'm repeating the right-hand glove, instead of reversing it for the left-hand glove. Ripped it out again. (Insert VERY sad face.)

The third time 'round must have been charmed, because I finished the glove in record time for me. And now, without further ado....

Now I'm hoping for really cold weather again, so I can test them out. The store-bought Alpaca socks I have really keep my feet warm. I'm hoping the gloves will do the same for my hands. I always have cold hands and feet; drinking too much ice-water, I suppose.

Next on the craft table are these....probably the 1970s boxers instead of the 1940s version.

Though, Michel did say he would wear either pair. I may just get adventurous and sew both.

Till next time!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Out of Chaos...

...Hopefully will come Order.

Now that the chaos of the holidays is over, all the gifts completed, and decorations put away - it is time to get a handle on my craft / rehab room. I really need to get everything organized, thinned out and put in its proper place. In its current state, it is nearly impossible to do anything creative, especially when you know that the mess which surrounds you certainly won't miraculously disappear.

So my first step is to start organizing all of my spare sewing machine parts, and start listing them on the Facebook Vintage Sewing Machine group, eBay, Etsy or Bonanza. Until I had them spread out across the floor, and started bagging, tagging and putting them in a spreadsheet - I had no idea I had that many extra parts. Hopefully they'll be useful for someone else's VSM restoration, and I can make a penny or two.

I've passed by this mess for a week now; it's driving me nuts.
Time to get in gear and get organized!

I have everything to re-build that Singer Featherweight, except
for the motor. I think I'll let someone else have that pleasure.

As soon as that task is completed, I have another 15-91 that I was gifted that I want to start work on. Based on the serial number, it's a pre-WWII machine, with the nice decorative face plate. I may keep this one as well, especially after free-motion quilting on my Centennial 15-91 for the holidays; I really enjoyed it and it was painless. There is also a 201-2 that either needs to be restored or parted out. It is missing a few parts that I don't have on hand, but the paint and finish on it are so nice, it would feel almost sacrilegious to part her out.

I also have a list of projects I need to finish and that I want to start. I found a vintage pattern for Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls that I'm dying to try out. There is the Bachelor Quilt that needs quilting. I put it away over a year ago, because I wasn't happy with it. I unfurled it today, and decided it wasn't as bad as I thought. There's a bedspread quilt that needs to be quilted. And I have a few shirt patterns that I want to try out for Michel and myself. There is certainly enough to keep my busy; I just don't want to start feeling overwhelmed and walk away from all of them.

'Til next time, here's to a Happy and Healthy New Year to all of you!