Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another "New" Gadget

If you've read my coverstitch tips, you'll already know that this stack of Post-Its has been my "hem guide" of choice on my coverstitch machine. That is, until now …

I knew I wanted a seam guide attachment for my Featherweight, since its original needle plate has no guidemarks. (Yes, I know I can buy another "original" with the marks and I will — just haven't yet.) The FW came with many attachments. Unfortunately, the seam guide wasn't one of them. So I bided my time on Ebay and bought a reasonably priced lot of sewing machine parts which not only included the Singer seam guide but a Greist version too. (And some other weird stuff I have no idea about. One day I'll post pics of those things too.)

This is the Singer seam guide on the Featherweight:

And here is the new resting spot for the Greist seam guide, on my coverstitch machine.

The stack of Post-Its works fine, until it gets accidentally knocked loose. And it does have to be "renewed" every so often by peeling off the old back sheet which has picked up lint and threads, etc. and lost its sticky. Eventually, I could go through tons of these things, which makes the Greist seam guide "greener" both in terms of not wasting sheets of Post-Its and it being rescued from a landfill. Nice side benefits for a nifty old gadget, eh?

Here's a blurry photo of them side-by-side. The main difference is that the Greist version has an ugly brown plastic capped screw which rides permanently in the groove. At some point, I may ask my husband to snip it off so I can sub a prettier silver screw. For now, I'm dealing with it. Brown may be one of my favorite colors — but for clothing, not on sewing machine attachments.

So now you're wondering where to get one, right? Well, the first place to look is Ebay. Search on "seam guide" or "sewing machine attachments" or "sewing machine parts" or even "Singer attachments." Of course, once you have the Singer name involved, especially the "Featherweight" label, the price may go up. These things are plentiful though and come branded by Singer, Greist, Elna, Kenmore and more. So be patient and you should be able to pick one up for under $10. You might even get it with a bunch of other interesting stuff like I did.

I tried to find a current version, but I wasn't having much luck with anything at a reasonable price. I did find this, which looks interesting. I have no idea about the website it's on though.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Buttonholer Winners & Tips

You know how when you're watching a show on TV and during one of the commercial breaks a news preview comes on with a teaser about how a giant gorilla is barreling down your street at this very moment and then cuts off with "Details at 11?" Then you tune into the news at 11 to find out What Is Going On?? and the story you tuned in to see isn't shown until about 11:28? Well, that's what I'm doing with the winners of the buttonholer contest. They are below, but you'll have to watch nearly all of the newscast before it's announced. Hee hee hee ...!!

* * * * *

So, yesterday I was finishing up my Shapely Shirt by stitching the buttonholes with my Singer buttonholer attachment. I decided to take some pics along the way to illustrate some tips I want to share.

But before I forget, make sure to visit EmilyKate's blog and watch her buttonholer attachment tutorial, here. You won't need any instructions at all after watching. (Great info, EmilyKate!).

OK, here we go …

If you're like me, one of the first things you'll wonder about after getting this thing hooked up to your machine is, "How the heck do I align everything so all my buttonholes start and end the same distance from the edge?" Well, it's easy enough to do, but not so easy to describe in words. Hopefully, I'll do OK.

First, mark your starting dots along the fabric edge. (One dot for each buttonhole.) My mark is in red below, with the needle stuck through it.

Notice that the back grabber foot thing around the needle is NOT centered to the needle. That's OK. It's normal. It will hardly ever be centered when you start, and yes, the position will likely be different each time.

Instead of trying to center things, what you need to do is become familiar with all the steps the needle takes as the attachment moves around to sew the buttonhole. To do that, raise your needle and start turning the white knob shown below. If it turns without clicking, turn it in the other direction. You need to hear those clicks and also see the attachment moving around. Each click is one movement.

Move it around for a couple passes until you can anticipate when it's nearing the starting point … which is one click past the center white line at the back of the black foot, circled below. It's a very subtle right-swing motion, so look for it. Missed it? OK, go around again. THAT is where you will start each buttonhole. (Pay no attention to my needle out of the red mark or the thread coming from it. I had started and then decided to take this pic, so I raised the needle and moved things around so I'd be able to get a shot of that white line.)

Practice on some scraps before you dive right into a real project. It's better to practice than to need to rip out buttonhole stitches. ;-)

Once you start, don't try to guide the fabric. The buttonholer takes it and moves it in all sorts of directions. This is what is supposed to happen. Let it.

Here is the backside of the first real buttonholes sewn with my attachment. I used a washaway stablizer underneath the fabric when stitching the buttonholes because this fabric is cotton/Lycra and it likes to pucker if you sew a buttonhole without the stabilizer. (I tested it first before diving in, which is how I learned this!)

We interrupt this fascinating blog post to bring you this announcement: The numbers 6 and 43 were randomly generated, in that order. That means Dawn (7/22/09 7:55 PM) wins first prize, and The Slapdash Sewist (7/24/09 8:13 PM) wins second prize. Congrats ladies. Email me your addresses to djc @ cedesign.com and I'll get this in the mail to you soon. Remember, you only have 48 hours before I move to the next names below yours. Dawn, I wish I could fit in the box with the attachment — I've always wanted to visit Alaska. ;-)

Here are my buttonhole cutting tools. One is a tube of Fray Block that I dab onto the buttonholes before cutting them. (I also dab this on the thread knots of the buttons for extra insurance.) The other items are my buttonhole chisel and mini self-healing mat that came with the chisel. The chisel is the best tool for cutting open a buttonhole. It's easy to position so that no threads are cut and if you're paying even a little bit of attention, it's pretty difficult to slice through the end of a buttonhole.

The buttonhole after being cut open. Beautiful, isn't it? ;-)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Petite Plus Shapely Shirt

Review here.

And, no, I have no idea about that photo. It just happened and turned out to show the top pretty well.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Two Words

LOVE it.

(More details and a review coming soon - maybe tomorrow if I can decide on buttons.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Buttonholers Out the Ying Yang

As I mentioned in the last buttonholer post, I now have three of these suckers as two more were acquired as part of bigger "lots" of sewing stuff. I only need one.

My excess is your gain. I'm giving away the extras. I will do a random drawing on Monday and post the results, so if you want one, leave a comment on this post.

The first winner will get this one, which is the older one with a slightly blemished top case but with 9 templates (one is in the buttonholer itself so you can't see it here). I've actually cleaned this one since I tried it out on my D1 so it's not dirty anymore. The blemish is cosmetic only and does not affect functionality. There are no instructions included with this one but they are easily found on the internet for free download.

The second winner will receive this one. It's slightly newer, no blemishes, and comes with the plastic case and instructions. It only has 5 templates.

The only rule is that if you win, you have to respond within 48 hours or I will select another random winner.

Comment away and let's move these things out of my sewing room!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Jalie 2806

Just a quickie today. Here are pics of my latest make of Jalie 2806:

I kept it longer and added extra ease for a cooler, more floaty top during our oppressive Florida summer days (and nights).

After hemming the tulip sleeve sections with my coverstitch machine, I basted them together as shown below by the red line, to form a "normal" sleeve that I inserted flat instead of in the round per the Jalie instructions.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Singer Buttonholer, Part Deux

I was planning to try it eventually, but a note on the PatternReview message boards this morning motivated me to hook up a buttonholer to my Viking D1 to see how we fared. Here are the results:

The red side is the front. The khaki is the back. That's 2 layers of cotton plus two layers of medium weight denim, just for kicks.

When I first posted about my new-to-me Singer buttonholer, I had just the one. Since then, I've bid on and won a few Ebay auctions for groups of cheap miscellanous sewing stuff. As a result, I now have three — yes three!! — of these things. Two are in great shape as is, and one needs a bit of cleaning up. But it still works just fine. It's what made those buttonholes above.

I first tried the attachment I've had set up on my Kenmore but the "claw" was just a smidge too narrow to fit over my Viking's needle screw. On a whim, I tried the other buttonholer … and it fit. The claw is circled in the photo below. You can also see the dust and dirt on this buttonholer.

The screw that comes with these Singer buttonholers is too big for the hole in my Viking presser foot bar, but since I already have the Viking ankle screw I just used that instead. Not really any brain effort involved there. The Viking screw is circled in the photo below and works perfectly.

Below are the two buttonholers claw-to-claw. The bigger (and dirtier) claw is to the left. You can see that there's hardly any difference. I'm certain you could easily use needlenose pliers to spread the claw a smidge if needed. Since my experiment and photos this morning, the 3rd buttonholer arrived in today's mail and it has the bigger claw spread too, so maybe my narrower claw is the fluke and not the other way around. I just don't know.

My "keeper" is the buttonholer on top in the photo below. The "dirty" buttonholer is on the bottom. The paint is a little scratched, but the rest of it will clean up just fine with a few Q-tips and some sewing machine oil.

The "dirty" one arrived in the dark box below, with extra templates in a black pouch. I think it's an older version than the one in the green box. Anyone?

Notes from the Weekend

Finally, there was some actual productive garment sewing this weekend. Not as much as I had planned, but some is better than none. But before that happened, I kind of got cornered to do some mending first.

My younger son's girlfriend's purse needed its shoulder strap reattached. They came into my sewing room and asked if they could borrow some purple thread and a needle. I asked for what, and GF showed me the strap on the purse. Which was gold and red cotton, by the way, so why purple I have no idea. Anyway, I said that I could just sew it on the machine and it would be stronger. GF smiled and handed the purse over.

When I had it in my hands, I noticed that the other strap was messily handstitched (also in purple!) and I ended up ripping that out and pressing and then sewing both straps on, sandwiched between the lining and the purse fabric.

The lining was another story. It was shredded near the top and the bottom was completely gone. Anything small that she'd drop into the purse would need a fishing expedition to find it up inside the lining. So, I also fused some interfacing to the back side of the lining so it would be stable again and then sewed it back to the bag at the bottom. Much better.

Finally, the outside front of the purse is covered in rows of ribbons, one of which had come apart from the next, creating another "hole" that needed attention. I just topstitched that back down, catching the lining as I sewed, but who cared at that point.

By the time I was done, I had nearly resewn the whole purse, but the GF was thrilled and this favorite purse will now last at least another few months. Mending might be tedious, but it is sure satisfying to save something from the trash bin (and, of course, to be a hero in GF's eyes!).

So here's how far I got with my next Jalie 2806 top. I'll sew the sleeves on tonight and finish it up, as the guys have BBQ duty for dinner.

Saturday was spent in the sewing room playing with my new toys, around some household chores. I finished three more blocks (2 Liberty/Twisted Sister and 1 more of the Life blocks). The Twisted Sister blocks are for the full quilt. The other is for the wallhanging that I started at the same time as the quilt, figuring "as long as I'm doing one, I might as well do two." Yeah, OK, who the heck thought THAT was a good idea? LOL! As you can see, the applique block for it so far remains undone too.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stars & Stripes & A Featherweight Tale

I started this quilt top 6 years ago. I'm not a big quilter, but I do like them. I saw this sampler on the Fons & Porter TV show when it was a new design and I really liked it. So I ordered the book and spent the next few weeks buying a huge bunch of red, white & blue (and gold and off-white) fat quarters. I was making good progress. Then life happened and I put it away, always meaning to get back to it.

Over the last week or so, I've been reacquainting myself with the instructions and the blocks I still need to complete. The applique blocks are really what are supposed to be up next, but I procrastinated on those six years ago and I deferred again this week. Instead, I chose the Life Block to work on, and finished those last night. I goofed on the assembly of one, but oh well, it's a sampler. This block will just be a sample of a mistake. LOL!

To give you an idea of the size of the finished quilt, the finished size of these Life Blocks are 10" and they are some of the smaller blocks that make up the whole. Most of the remaining blocks are 20" or bigger. I want to work on this slowly and without self-imposed pressure over the next couple of months, to finish the remaining 9 blocks. Hopefully posting here on the blog will keep me motivated to do that. (In the photo from the book above, the yellow blocks represent those I've finished.)

I've been practicing on my treadle but I still don't feel confident enough on it to sew an even 1/4" seam allowance, so I used the "new baby" — a 1949 Featherweight I picked up locally a couple of weeks ago. You saw a preview of her in my last post. For these blocks, a little stack of Post-Its was my seam guide. The needle plate has no markings, and I may decide to "fix" that by buying one with the marks. Or, I may just stock up on more Post-Its.

You can't really see in these photos taken last night, but all of the decals are intact and bright, including around the edge of the extension which aren't showing at all here. Yes, there is some regular and expected wear on this machine, but overall it's in good condition. And it's adorable! I'm not planning on reselling it, so I don't care that it's not one of the gleaming and perfect $600+ variety FWs I've seen for sale online. Truthfully, when I was sewing on it last night and using my awl to guide the joins of the blocks, I was glad that it was already scratched. I think I wouldn't be as comfortable sewing on a near-perfect Featherweight.

How I got her is kind of funny, kind of sad. I had answered a Craig's List ad for another machine entirely. The seller was just one town over, about 3 miles away, so I figured I'd go look at it for fun (again with my son for "protection"). When I got there, we chatted a little. He's a nice older gentleman. I mentioned to him that I had recently bought a treadle, have seemed to have caught the collecting bug, and that I'd fallen in love with FWs (thank you DonnaH and Cidell!) and one day I'd really like to find one of those. His eyes kind of lit up as he led us to his "workshop" out in the garage. He's a widower and told me that he still had his wife's FW that he had planned to spiff up for her one day, but that his arthritis had really slowed down his tinkering and now none of his kids seemed to really care about the machine anyway so it had just been sitting. He asked me if I wanted it instead. OMG! So, I came home with a very dusty, but working, Featherweight, plus a few extra parts — for $50.

I didn't take a lot of Before pics but here are some of the "highlights."

This was the area around the motor. It's a spiderweb with the spider's previous "dinner" in the middle, or it's a moth's cocoon. I didn't really examine it too closely. Ick.

The web, and this tape on the needle plate were the worst.

The rest was really just simple washing and dusting. Plus oiling and lubricating.

The seller told me that the machine had come with the striated coverplate shown on it here, but that he had also acquired a scroll plate at one point. So, now I have both. I'll probably sell the scroll plate on Ebay, because I don't need two and I like the simple plate in contrast to all the scrollwork on my treadle. I also think it goes with the FW's Art Deco style decals better.

Among other "extra parts," the machine came with two foot pedals. One a working Mercury clamshell and the other is the original Singer Bakelite pushbutton pedal. The Singer pedal needs rewiring and will probably be another Ebay listing mostly because I like the clamshell better, not because I couldn't rewire the pushbutton pedal.

Finally, it also came with its case and some attachments, but I forgot to take pics of those. The case was very dirty and stinky, but I've wiped it out and it looks pretty good for its age, and it's sturdy. Some of the attachments are familiar to me - like the ruffler and zipper foot. Others I've never seen in real life before. I'll do a separate post on those one day soon.

For now, I'm going to try to "whip up" a TNT top on my neglected D1 and serger. Probably another Jalie, or maybe another of the Simplicity tops that I said I should put away but actually still want to make. I'll see what calls the loudest when I'm up in the sewing room.

Have a good Saturday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Invasion of the Sewing Machines

This is the view from the door of my sewing room. Don't look at all the thread snips on the floor, OK? Oh rats, you just did, didn't you? ;-)

As you can see I've moved in the treadle. I've also got the "newest addition" sitting on the cutting table at the moment. It needs a home too, but that might be just a clear-off space on the shelf under the table. I'm still playing with it for now so it can remain out while we get to know each other.

The treadle corner used to have stacked Sterlite cabinet-drawers. (Click here to see a Before pic.) Those have now been dispersed to other places in the room, temporarily. I wanted a full view of the treadle whenever I walked into the room because it's just so darn pretty and this was the best spot to keep everything workable for me. It's a good set-up, and Belinda's Victorian-esque heart pillow hanging above the treadle is a perfect accent for it. (It's not centered at the moment because, remember, those Sterlite cabinets used to be there.)

I've never liked all the wasted space underneath a typical ironing board. And now that I've got some storage containers in limbo in other parts of the room, it's just screaming at me to come up with a better arrangement. I have drafted my two sons and the younger's girlfriend who loves to build things for making an ironing board "station" for me. It's summer, they're bored, and a simple project will give them something productive to do as well as provide me with something I've wanted. I'll work up some plans/measurements tonight and send them off for supplies in the morning.

(Piled on the end of the ironing board are the capris that don't fit.)

I still can't believe how my machinery has multiplied exponentially in just a few weeks. I've now got 4 working sewing machines, a serger, and a coverstitch machine. I'm out of room in here so I'm trying really hard to stop looking at Craig's List. As much. ;-) It's fun though. These old machines really make a beautiful stitch. After finishing the ironing station plans, I'm going to work on a quilt block tonight (probably just reacquainting myself with where I am and the correct pieces needed) and stay away from clothes until the weekend. I should be over the capris by then.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Keep Moving Folks, Nothing To See Here

(Although that's NOT what I had planned for today.)

I worked a lot on the J Stern jeans/capris. Almost finished them in fact. Had the waistband mostly sewed and then decided to try them on for one last test fit.

And I could not zip them up, no way no how.

I'm fairly sure I did not gain 20 pounds in a week. I really have no idea what went wrong. And right now, I don't even want to look at them. I'm spittin' nails.

The only "good" news is that I do have more of this fabric so all is not yet lost for getting a wearable pair of capris from it. I just wish I didn't have to start over.

After that ordeal, I was paralyzed and just vegged in front of the TV last night. Army Wives, In Plain Sight, and Wild Pacific, while looking at my new Petite Plus Shapely Shirt pattern.


Sunday, July 5, 2009


This is my old Kenmore mechanical. It's about 15-17 years old. I bought it before I started really sewing, for occasional mending. Later it was also used for sewing on Cub Scout patches and making some curtains and valances in our previous house. It's not quite near the bottom of the line, but it's close. I don't even know what model it is, that's how NOT into sewing I was then. The only thing I wanted in a machine back in those days was a free arm. Compared to the treadle, though, this Kenmore is feature-rich and sparkling new. LOL! Today I pulled it out again and gave it a new assignment.

You see, last week the Singer buttonholer I bought on Ebay arrived. I wanted it for the treadle just to play around with, but I soon found out I couldn't attach it to the treadle until I got a side-clamping presser bar and traded that out for the original back-clamping bar currently in place. (New side-clamping bar is on its way, so it won't be long.)

Being the impatient soul that I am, I thought about hooking it up to my D1 just so I could try it out. But I decided against that in case something went horribly wrong or if it ended up scratching the bed of the machine. That would be too costly a playtime. Then I spied the Kenmore in the corner sitting in the banker's box my son's girlfriend used to transport it when she borrowed it a few months ago. The perfect sacrificial lamb, if you will. ;-)

And here it is, hanging on for its (new) life.

It arrived in this green plastic box, all pieces intact and looking nearly new. There's also an add-on set of templates. I think there's more templates than the 9 I now own, but again, I'm not sure. Anyone?? And while you're answering, could you also tell me if there's really any difference between the Singer and Greist buttonholers?

I have no idea how old it is but the instruction book has a copyright date of 1948 if that means anything. Looking at the manual, I'm thinking that timeframe is close if not completely accurate.

Here are my first tests. They got progressively better as I adjusted the stitch width (on the buttonholer itself). The one in the lower right corner is the best, I think.

What fun this little device is. My D1 has an automatic buttonhole wheelie attachment thing (Perfectly Balanced Buttonholes or something like that) and generally makes nice buttonholes, but truthfully this little Singer attachment is easier to get absolutely identical no-fuss buttonholes from. Singer buttonholers are plentiful on Ebay and sell for well under $10. If you have a low-shank machine and dread buttonholes even a little bit - or just want to play with a new toy … Go Buy One Now. You won't be sorry. Did I mention that I love to enable pass around the joy? You only need a straight stitch for these little gadgets as they move the fabric and not the needle to make the satin stitches.

Here was my experimental "buttonhole station." Notice the foot pedal on the table. I was pedaling with my hand, just because I wanted everything within finger's reach. The Kenmore won't live on the cutting table and in fact isn't on it anymore. But it's on a little table I have next to the cutting table, with the buttonholer still attached, and within easy reach for when I'll pull it back onto the cutting table tomorrow to make a buttonhole in the waistband of my new capris. Oh, and the fabric with the test buttonholes above? That's the fabric for the new capris.

Not more than a year ago, I wondered what the attraction was for sewers who collect old machines. Why would I want an OLD machine that doesn't do anything? My D1 is TOL, computerized with embroidery, and just about sews for me. I still don't know the answer to my question except to say that I seem to have caught the bug. There is definitely something fun about bringing a dirty old machine back to life, and there is a sense of connection to days and sewers past.

On that note, another machine followed me home last week. Again, courtesy of Craig's List. I've forced myself to leave it in the garage until next week so I can actually sew something before I'm engrossed again in a tune-up and restoration. Here's a preview. Donna, I'm blaming you. ;-)