Category Archives: Sewing Machines

A New Baby!

I was gifted this beautiful Singer 401A (mid-1950s) about a year ago by someone who is well aware of my obsession with vintage machines. She knew that I would cherish it and that it would be a treasured piece in my collection. It’s been sitting in my friend’s shop since then awaiting restoration so I was extremely excited to finally bring her home today. Isn’t she a beauty? Aside from a couple of scratches on the back of the top cover she is as bright and shiny as the day she rolled off the assembly line.

Whenever I watch one of these old girls being restored, I marvel at the craftsmanship of yesteryear. These machines were made with pride to last a lifetime or longer – I hope I look this good when I am nearing 60!



Filed under Sewing Machines, vintage

Merrow M-2DNR-1

I had a little free time this afternoon so I thought I’d sit down and see if I could remember how to thread the Merrow purling machine. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t used it in several years! They are not very common and people often ask me if I want to sell mine so I decided that I needed to either start using it more or sell it to someone who would.

It took me a few minutes of staring at the machine to remember exactly how to thread the looper but then it all came back to me. The looper is below the needle plate and must essentially be threaded blind. The needle is raised to it’s highest position and then a wire threader goes through the hole in the casting and through the eye of the looper. You know you’ve done it correctly if you get a stitch. :-)

I looked up the age of this machine on the Merrow site awhile back and it was manufactured the year I was born. How funny that I have two machines (this and my Singer Rocketeer) that are the same age as me. Anyway, I had a little fun making a short video so you could hear the characteristic Merrow “purr”. My voice sounds funny – do I really sound like that? I don’t sound very natural but it was awkward holding the camera and operating the machine at the same time. Also the video got cut off at the end, I don’t know what happened – I’m still learning this stuff!


Originally uploaded by stickman1215

The last time I used this machine, I needed some ribbon to finish off a pot of lavendar for my DMIL. I cut up a fat quarter, sewed the strips together and then purled the edges. Now, what else can I make with this? I’m thinking that perhaps a longer stitch length might be more useful so maybe I will order some other cams.




Filed under Sewing Machines

The Anorak – Part II

It’s Day 1 of my mini Sewing Vacation, woohoo! Bryan is in Dallas and I am doing exactly what I said I’d be doing: spending the day in my jammies, sewing! I should get this anorak completed before I go to bed tonight. I swear, finishing all of the seams takes longer than the entire jacket itself! But, it’s well worth it.


I didn’t want any raw edges around the armscye so I decided to use double-fold binding instead of the HK finish. I trimmed off a scant 1/4″ from the seam allowances and ran it through.


It looks really nice and neat and was so easy. I love the way the shiny dupionni binding looks with the sueded silk/linen!


I also used the binder to make my own cording. Because this fabric is so “grabby” it would have been a nightmare to turn a bias tube and I didn’t have any charcoal drawcord in my stash. This techniqued worked really well so I’ll definitely use it again.


Here’s where I am so far. I still have to hem the jacket and finish the sleeves. The jacket looks really long but, I assure you, this is the shorter length! And the sleeves… Well, to be fair, they probably are perfect when using a blouseweight but they were way too wide for this fabric. I removed 4″ of width and they are still quite full. I’m unsure whether I will cuff or elasticate them so I’ll leave that until last.



Filed under Attachments, McCall's, Year of the Jacket

McCall’s 5860 – Final

Yay, it’s finished! I didn’t have much left, really, but I like to take my time when it comes to my buttonholes. I made keyhole buttonholes on my Singer 500A “Rocketeer” using the Singer Professional buttonholer (which is for zigzag machines). Because my fabric is textured, I stitched around three times for a nice dense bead.



You’ll notice that I ended up using a different button. After testing, I decided that this larger tack button looked better. I actually think the shininess of it makes my fabric look less shiny.


Here’s a close-up of the flap, which I also cut on the bias to match the pockets.


I am thrilled with the way this turned out and would definitely use this pattern again. (If you’ve never tried a Palmer/Pletsch pattern, you really should, you won’t be disappointed.) Too bad I’ll have to wait quite some time before I’ll be able to wear it!

PARTING SHOT: I’ve been wanting a 2nd single-needle machine for awhile because I’d like to keep one set up for binding (yes, I’m spoiled, I know!). I bartered for this very lovely Consew high-speed straight stitch. My only complaint is that the top is green particle board instead of white plywood so I know I’ll eventually want to replace it. This will become my main machine and my beloved Consew 105 will be set up with a right-angle binder – can’t wait!



Filed under McCall's, Sewing Machines, Year of the Jacket

Binder comparisons

I was asked about binding tight curves by Shisomama, who is attempting to bind baby bibs with a plate binder. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult (if not impossible!) to bind tight curves with this type of binding attachment. As you can see here, the binding enters the attachment at about a 45 degree angle and is then straightened out well before it gets under the needle. This type of binder is best for straight or slightly curved work.


Then we have the right-angle binder which works very well on tight curves and rounded corners. The fabric enters the binder at a 90 degree angle and does not straighten out until just before it goes under the needle. This type of binder is attached to a commercial needle plate (which fits most single-needle machines). It also requires a special feeder and foot. This particular set came with a standard binding foot (on the left) and a compensating foot (right).


I’ll be setting up my single needle machine with this binder when I start on my Hot Patterns Wrapture Jacket so you’ll get to see it in action.


Filed under Attachments

Making space

Pretty soon I’ll be adding two more machines to my herd: a Singer 143W (with which I’ll be able to zigzag on leather using 138 thread!) and a Singer 112W (double-needle, needle-feed machine for leather). If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know space is getting pretty tight in the second sewing room! I already measured and discovered that my two file cabinets (where I store extra patterns) will fit into the walk-in closet of my exercise room so that’ll leave room for one new machine. Then, when I was unpacking my boots (which are stored in Jess’ old closet) I got the idea to move my little Merrow into the left side of closet. I cut the table down years ago so it’s small and there’s an outlet and light in the closet. The Merrow only does a perle edge so it’s one of those machines I’ll use every few months for 20 minutes or so and that’s it. I think she looks rather at home, don’t you?


And now I have space for a 2nd machine next to the window in the sewing room. I’m happy.



Filed under Sewing Machines, This and that

Am I still working on this silk blouse?

Ugh, yes I am! I can’t believe how much trouble I’ve had sewing this blouse! Well, thankfully, it’s not just me. Last night, Ann, Phyllis, Pam and I decided that the planets must be misaligned or something. Anyway, the sleeves are finally done and I hope not to see my seam ripper for a day or two. Since I’m working six days right now (my friend had a knee replacement so I’m minding his shop on Saturdays) I’ve decided to blow off housework today and get this thing finished because I really want to move on to other projects.


I’m embarassed that my pressing board is so stained! I went to JoAnn’s – do you think they had any cotton drill? Uh, no.

I bought some new industrial hemmer feet this week. The one on the left is 3/8″ and the one on the right is 1/8″. I really like this style best. They are the same as the Bernina feet that I am used to.


Here are some other feet I already had. They are really nice but I just don’t like them as well as the other style. The one on the left is a spring hemmer. It has a little spring that opens as you go over a seam. The middle one is a ball hemmer and the one on the right is a wire hemmer. For some reason, I’ve just never made friends with any of them (I think it’s because of the lack of visibility) so I was really excited to find the others. They weren’t expensive so I’ll probably order some other sizes as well.


I almost forgot about the buttons! I finally picked up some Rit dye yesterday. I simmered the buttons on the stove (I have a dedicated Corningware dish for this task) for about 3 hours, left them in the dyebath overnight and then simmered them some more this morning in a fresh pot of undiluted dye. They are not quite dark enough but I’d rather have an “almost” MOP button than a perfect plastic one!



Filed under Attachments, Fabric, Vogue

The Week in Review

I really didn’t accomplish much, this being a short week and all. I had some time to sew on Wednesday and spent it mending my paisley peasant blouse, grrrrr. When I was finished, I spent time planning my next projects. Thursday I met Jess for drinks, Friday I went to Bryan’s football game and then I worked yesterday so boohoo no sewing time until later today (after I vacuum and mop!).

About the mending: whenever I make something new I like to try it on with various other items in my wardrobe just to see what works with what. I was wearing a black bra and noticed a black spot on the front of my blouse. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that there was a small hole in the fabric! I always look for flaws when I’m pressing my yardage but, somehow, missed this! I was really upset but, since I had nothing to lose, I thought I’d try to fix it. Because this fabric is really drapey and the pattern is busy I decided that making a small fisheye dart over the hole would be the best solution.

I sewed out from the center, tapering to nothing at each end with very small stitches. I didn’t backtack but instead sewed right off the edge of the fabric. I then dotted a little Fraycheck directly on the hole.


After pressing, the mend isn’t noticeable at all! I marked the ends of the little dart with pins so you could see.


Granted, I still know it’s there (and I’m not at all happy about that) but I wore it yesterday and had a hard time finding the mend so I’ll continue to wear it as long as it lasts. I also decided to add some ties to the sleeves.


We stayed in last night because my honey didn’t feel well. While he watched football I cut out a hot pink silk blouse. I’ve had this silk for over 15 years. I purchased it when, sniff, the old Cloth World on State Road 7 closed. Oh, the many happy hours I spent there in high school fondling fabric and looking through pattern books! I knew I had some hot pink MOP buttons in my collection but I didn’t have enough – and no way to ‘make it work’. I am totally disgusted with JoAnn’s button selection. I refuse to put a plastic button on a silk blouse so I’m going to try dyeing some to match. If that doesn’t work out I’ll order some from MJ Trimmings. I have hundreds of natural MOP shirt buttons so I’ll experiment with that this week. I meant to pick up a bottle of RIT when I was at Publix but it was such a madhouse that I forgot.


I also pressed my beautiful cotton that I bought from Ann a couple of months ago. I found the perfect pattern for it which I’ll hopefully fit this afternoon.


I bought some industrial velvet feet since I didn’t have a set. You can’t really see in the photos but they have a V bottom so as not to mar the fabric. I’m most interested in them for ditch stitching since I haven’t really found the perfect foot for that.



And, I ended up wearing my white dotted Swiss blouse to the football game on Friday and received soooo many compliments. I like it more every time I wear it!


Filed under Attachments, Fabric, This and that

Singer Hemstitcher

Welcome to the wonderful world of vintage sewing attachments! I warn you, this can become a very expensive addiction. :-)

Since some of you asked, I thought I’d write a little more about the hemstitcher. It is a wonderful, vintage attachment available for models 15, 66 (except 66-1), 99, 101, 127, 128, 201 and 221. Here’s the set for the 15 class and the 201:


The set consists of the attachment itself (note the huge hooked piercer),


and a special needle plate, an offset screwdriver and a special mushroom-shaped attachment screw:


There are five different needle plates available for the various models. Here’s the plate for the Featherweight (221K):


All of the machines that this attachment was designed for are straight-stitch only. The attachment pierces a large hole and then allows the machine to form a zigzag stitch to hold the hole open. For a nice hemstitch you would stitch down one side and then turn the work around and come down the other side. If you want a picot edge you stitch down one side only and then trim the fabric away up to the hole. It’s really very cool and beats the pants off the wing needle!

If you have one of these vintage machines and want to find an attachment that fits it, here is a list of the plates for each model:

Class 15 #121388
Class 66 #121389
Class 99 #121389
Class 101 #121390
Class 127 #121391 (needs screw #202)
Class 128 #121391 (needs screw #202)
Class 201 #121388
Class 221 #121392

Note that the set is always numbered #121387. The part number for the plate is on the underside and number #121388 for the 15 and 201 classes is the most readily available. The one for the 221 (probably because of the ever-increasing popularity of the Featherweight) seems to be the most sought after and therefore the most expensive.


Filed under Attachments, Sewing Machines

Singer 15-91

My new baby’s home! This is a beautiful, shiny 1951 Singer 15-91. It looks like it’s original owner barely used it. Even the wooden case is in beautiful condition (and it has it’s key!).



I’ve wanted this machine for awhile so that I could use my vintage Singer hemstitcher. I do have the attachment for the Featherweight but I think it works better on the 201 or 15-91. Plus, the hemstitcher for this machine is much more common and less expensive – everything for the Featherweight is high priced. I’ll probably sell the Featherweight hemstitcher since it’s unlikely that I’ll use it now. If you haven’t seen what the hemstitcher can do, here’s a sample:


Beautiful, isn’t it?

It’s 6:30 but UPS hasn’t come yet so I’m still holding out hope that the dotted Swiss will arrive!

UPDATE: 7:47, the UPS man just left the fabric on my doorstep! Off to the washer.


Filed under Sewing Machines