Saturday, February 16, 2013

Free Motion Quilting Progress

I have noticed that I tend to post to this blog in spurts. That's not to say that I don't make an effort to put in at least 30 minutes of sewing a night. It's that taking pictures and coming up with a narrative is what takes the time.

When I first started quilting, I really hadn't even heard of free motion quilting. All that changed when I found Leah Day and her Free Motion Quilting Project on Youtube. I, like so many other people, am just so inspired by her work (not to mention grateful). This is the first quilt I have really just let loose on. Knowing that it is probably going to be donated to Quilts for Kids, helps me relax a bit.

Something else that helps my quilting is having a machine with a speed regulator. What a difference!

So far it's about half complete.

That's it for now. More later....

Singer 237 Fashion Mate - Refurbish

Singer 237 (Before)
One of my husband's friends was cleaning out his mother's garage and came across this gem. Let it be said that I love just about machine that may come my way, but I have a soft spot for any machine that weighs more than a toddler. Coming in at over 32lb. is this 1960's Singer 237 Fashion Mate that sports an all metal interior. The serial number is MF 220782 and was manufactured in Monza, Italy. If you are looking for a manual for one of these machines (or any other Singer), a pdf can be downloaded for free from the Singer website, here. Just enter your model number.

 As you can see from these pictures, it was in really bad shape when I took the face plates off. I live in an area that has a high moisture content from the sea air. It's my understanding that sewing machine oil will turn brown when exposed to moisture. Add to that the fact that it sat in the same position for over 20 years. The brown oil melted into the bottom of the machine. There was also some rust forming on some of the metal parts of the machine.

I know I shouldn't have done this but I decided to see if it would stitch in the condition that it was in. Sure enough, it stitched great but it sounded terrible. The motor sparked more than I was comfortable with but it didn't smoke.

The first thing I did was head over to the Sew Classic blog to see what I could learn about this machine. It just so happens that I have the 237, which features a straight stitch and an adjustable zig zag stitch. It also has a dial on the bed that lowers the feed dogs. This dial was an addition to the later model machines. One of the only parts that this machine will give you trouble with is the hook race cover which, in the case of this machine, was cracked. The belt and the bobbin winding tire appeared to be in good shape.

I began by dismounting the motor, light and pedal assemblies and setting them aside. There are a number of plastic faceplates on this machine that needed to be removed for cleaning. There are a number of mixed reviews about using compressed air but given the fact this is an all mechanical machine and condition it was currently in, I pulled out my husbands compressor and blew all the dust out of the top of the machine.

When researching cleaners, I got just as many mixed reviews on products as I did on the compressed air issue. I settled on a product called PB Blaster, which is rust inhibiting soak that is used for lubricating, cleaning breaking frozen bolts. I imagine it's similar to WD-40. I got incredible results with this product. Something to be aware of when cleaning mechanical sewing machines with something labeled "lubricant" is that you still need to oil the moving parts and lube anywhere you have metal on metal movement. There are numerous sites out there to help with sewing machine maintenance. I spent about 10 hours meticulously cleaning every part of this machine.

Singer 237 with the plastic face off (before)
After cleaning every surface of this machine, I did some searches on Youtube for how to repair a sewing machine motor. I came across this one here. I took the exterior covers off and removed the spring loaded brushes. I didn't take a picture of this but it looks exactly like the video. After removing the brushes I cleaned the contact areas with rubbing alcohol and sanded with a nearly no grit sandpaper. I put a quarter of a drop of oil on the pulley assembly and put everything back together. I have just placed an order for a new plastic hook race assembly cover.
Filthy Feed Dogs (before)

Even with the cracked bobbin hook race cover being cracked, this machine now runs smoothly and quietly. The sound is similar to a Singer 501 Rocketeer. I am looking forward to using this machine on a regular basis and I am thrilled to add it to my collection.

Additional info: I have enough sewing machines that I really don't need to look at individual manuals. If you have the good fortune to find one of these machines and are looking for a manual, the vast majority of Singer manuals are available for free download at their site:

Vintage White manuals are also available at the above link. I have to assume that Singer acquired White at some point.

A really clear Singer 237 manual is available here for FREE. I can't tell you how many listings on eBay are selling pdfs of publicly available manuals for over $15 each.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sewing Machine Review 1 - Kenmore 385 22 Stitch

One of my favorite sewing sites has got to be Pattern Review. In addition to getting see some really impressive projects completed by some incredibly talented people, there are a TON of sewing machine reviews. Although I am relatively new to sewing, I have already amassed quite a collection of sewing machines. I have never before considered myself mechanically inclined because I have never been interested in anything mechanical before.

Enter, the home sewing machine.... Some of my machines have been gifts, Craigslist finds and eBay purchases.

I posted an abreviated version of this review to Pattern Review. This machine is odd enough that a stock picture of the machine is not available on PR. This machine is almost identical to the 24 stitch 385.17641. Both were probably produced on the same early 90's assembly line, by Janome.

I got this machine for free a couple of months ago. It was a friend's grandmother's machine. Her grandmother had upgraded and it ended up gathering dust in her closet. It came with the bulky original case (that I have since removed from the base) and a few needles. This was originally a low shank machine so I purchased a snap on shank so it would be compatible with my existing snap-on foot collection. This was my first Kenmore and it happens to be made by Janome. I like this machine so much, I decided to upgrade to a TOL Janome made Kenmore 19606.

This machine features a drop-in bobbin and has 8 stretch stitches. It also has 6 decorative stitches that are based on a variation of a zig zag stitch. The decorative stitches remind me of the stitches available on a Singer Slant-o-matic cam.

Since I didn't have a manual, I had to find out the hard way that the correct way to switch through the various stitches is to turn the stitch width up to 5 and then you can change stitches. The stitch width dial acts as a kind of clutch. I had to take the top of the housing off and experiment, in order to find that out.

This is the quietest machine I have.

This is a really good basic machine that is available on eBay for $40-$60. It's a really good value for the beginning seamstress.