Cycling and walking

Friday, January 26

Harris Family No 2, transverse shuttle machine, Part 1

I am currently struggling with this Harris Family No 2 transverse shuttle machine (long bobbin). I was given this one, along with a Jones Zig-Zag (which remains upstairs until I decide whether it's worth spending money on parts for it) many months ago. Eventually I removed a lot of parts from it, cleaned it all, put it back together, oiled it, and removed it from the kitchen table while Christmas came and went, and sewing jobs did too. This week it was time to get it out again and attempt to sew with it. By the way the clean up job might not look that fantastic compared to some, and indeed if I'd had the time maybe I'd love to have got everything shinier, but for now it's a perfectly good enough job for it to function.

I have come across one TS machine before, which was this smaller Harris K - (in our old kitchen, which I miss!)

This had belonged to my father-in-law's mother. I got it stitching without too much trouble, but even if it had been mine to keep I wouldn't have bothered, as I didn't think it was a particularly good machine. Harris did not make the machines themselves; they were made by other companies, such as the German companies Haid and Neu, and Stoewer, who made the one I have now. This one is worth persisting with I think, which is why I am, despite the struggles! I wouldn't normally write a post about a sewing machine job until it was finished, but I decided to with this one.

Transverse shuttle struggles!

The struggles are caused simply by my not knowing as much about these TS machines as the other machines I have worked on, which either had long bobbins but had vibrating shuttles, rather than these transverse ones, or had round bobbins. Things are different behind that flat face plate too. It takes time to learn something new and I wasn't sure if I ought not really to be spending my time on other things, as this job probably won't earn me any money (although you never know....). Having said that, I felt sure that this machine was essentially in good order and it seemed such a shame not to get it working. It is also rather lovely to look at in my opinion, and, I'm no expert, but to me the engineeering is amazing. It is different to Singers in that all the metal rods underneath, and the needlebar and presser bar are rectangular as opposed to round. I find it amazing how these rods fit so accurately against each other, or inside a hole, and then with just a little oil between them they move smoothly. I like just turning the handle and watching everything move, and listening to the lovely sound it makes. 

This was the order of work - 

1  Insert the needle

The needle is completely round and not flat on one side as most domestic sewing machine needles are nowadays. These needles are not manufactured any more but it is possible to get something which does the job. Inserting it is not as simple as it sounds as with this machine you have to "set" it. Normally you just push the needle up as far as it will go and then tighten the clamp, but with this machine you have to gauge it by eye, making sure that when a mark on the needlebar is at a certain point, the eye of the needle is just entering the needle hole. I came across a comment on a post in Lizzie Lenard's vintage sewing blog on these TS machines, which proved very helpful. If you scroll down to Petrushka's comment on August 15th, he posts a link to a very good PDF with photos of a TS machine - a different make but still useful. It was only when looking at his photos that I was able to find the mark on the needlebar.

Learn to thread the shuttle. The diagram in the manual I've got is not all that clear, and despite there being videos on You Tube showing how to do it,  none of them are 100% clear, particularly with the last step of the threading. Perhaps I will take photos when I am certain that I know how to do it correctly, but I'm not at the moment. (By the way, I was over the moon to unwrap a new camera at Christmas - thank you children! - so I don't have to use the Ipad all the time or an old smartphone!) Anyway, once I'd done that, the next thing was to try to draw up the bobbin thread, which I succeeded in doing, but after some unsuccessful attempts at stitching I removed the shuttle, and then couldn't get the bobbin thread to come up again, no matter what I did. 

I needed to see what was going on in the shuttle area, so I removed the throat plate and right hand side plate, and watched the shuttle as it moved towards the upper thread. I could see what was going wrong, and that if I held the upper thread in a certain position then it stopped getting caught up where it shouldn't and went where it was supposed to and then drew up the bobbin thread. Whether it is supposed to be that tricky or not I don't know.

Here are the stages of picking up that upper thread -

Point of shuttle begins to pass in front of the upper thread

Thread has now gone over the shuttle, round the back, and over the bobbin thread

Upper thread is now picking up bobbin thread

Et voila! Mission accomplished!

3  Try and stitch again

No joy - the bobbin thread was not being caught with the upper thread....... so there were no stitches underneath. That's as far as I've got. One other thing - it may not help that that the needle is the only one I've got for this machine, and it is quite a thick needle; I haven't got the right weight of thread for it amongst my collection. Getting the right weight of thread for the needle and fabric is another important thing I've learnt over the years. Incidentally the needle itself has no markings on showing size or make, but as it came in this box......

.....I am assuming therefore that it is a Torrington needle. On the paper in the box are the numbers 339 and 2. I don't know if they mean anything. It is so easy to get sidetracked in this hobby, as I just had to google Torrington, never having come across their needles before. I then found out that it is a town in Connecticut (where my daughter-in-law is from and where Eldest Son worked for a few years) which is famed for its industry -

 "Soon, Torrington was producing a variety of metal products, including needles, brass, hardware, bicycles, and tacks." (Wikipedia)

Needles and bicycles - how appropriate!

Another blog with a useful post on the famous Singer 12 TS machine, and needles that work with it, is here. I say famous, but although I'd come across them before I didn't realize how famous until a friend had one for sale in her shop (the Arbery Emporium in Wantage) and asked me to have a look at it. I did some googling and then I knew....... 

Here's one more pic showing the amazing engineering. Actually it might not be amazing to an engineer but to someone who isn't - it is! Looking underneath from behind the machine, you can see that there is a groove that the needle passes down. The shuttle passes over the needle while it is in this groove. So smooth and with such precision!

Hopefully there will be a Part 2 to this which will not say "I've given up...." but instead "success!"

Other distractions lately are a book called "Stitches in Time" on the history of clothes by Lucy Adlington, bought in a charity shop and very interesting, a fascination with the clothes that George Mallory was found to be wearing when his body was discovered on Everest in 1999, and leading on from that a blog called Well Dressed Dad, and last but not least a programme on BBC 4 called A Stitch in Time.

I'm now off to do a bit of boro.

Monday, January 15

Two people's plastic waste for one month

With all the news about plastic in the oceans and the news of possible attempts by the government to cut down on this waste, this blog post is quite timely. At the beginning of December I had decided that I would save all the plastic waste that our household of two people produced, in order to see just how much we ended up with. The piles in the photos below are the evidence. It was just starting to overflow the "bag for life" that I had kept it in.

During this time I didn't attempt to reduce the amount of plastic waste that we produce. I just bought what I normally do, although having said that, I have been attempting  to reduce the amount over the years by not, for instance, putting loose vegetables in Sainsbury's into the bags provided. When buying biscuits I had also started noting which ones were excessively packaged, i.e. a plastic tray, wrapped in film, inside another plastic wrapper, and chose ones instead which had less packaging. Have you noticed how it's the particularly yummy ones that come in lots of packaging.........

I also knew that black trays used for ready meals were virtually not recyclable as they could not be detected by the sorting machines, so for some weeks I had been trying to avoid buying these. (I know, I know, ready meals, appalling.......... but we only have them occasionally!). Instead if I can I get them from the Co-op where they do them in green trays. Why can't Sainsbury's and Waitrose then????? Also on that subject, we have tried an EXCELLENT lasagne from Aldi, which comes in a paper case in a wooden box, in a cardboard sleeve. We have a trip to Aldi now and then to buy certain other things too, like their snack bars which are like Nakd bars but even better and cheaper, and also British oilseed rape oil (in a glass bottle) which is about half the price that it is in Sainsbury's.

The only thing that I didn't save was our milk bottles. I'm not sure how much milk we get through in a month, but at a rough guess it must be at least 8 pints for Husband and 4 for me, per week, so that would work out at around 12 x 4 pint bottles for  the month. In fact it would have been more than that as we had our son and his wife staying for a few days. In the days before they were collected in the kerbside boxes, and when we lived in our old house with loads of outbuildings for stuff like this, the only place you could take them for recycling was Tesco's 13 miles away, so I used to store them up and take them when we were going that way anyway. Good job we had a VW van at the time. As we now only have a tiny car I'm glad we can now recycle them at the roadside.

The first photo is the complete contents of the bag -

Then I separated this pile into what is labelled as recyclable, what isn't labelled at all, and what is recyclable but only in shops themselves rather than at the roadside. Having said that, I am looking at the photos and thinking - I haven't been consistent here! Because I have got stuff that isn't labelled in more than one pile..... For instance Holland and Barrett bags in this pic which are not labelled -

and in this next picture - 

plain unlabelled plastic here too, with stuff that IS recyclable. I'm in a muddle myself now! I think my reasoning was that if it's completely plain I will assume (for some reason!) that it might be recyclable and therefore put it in the recycling bin. 

This lot is definitely the stuff that I have to take back to Sainsbury's.

There have long been complaints about how complicated and unclear plastic recycling is, and I think that is one of the issues the government is addressing, and about time too. It just doesn't make sense a lot of the time - I mean why are Sainsbury's frozen peas bags recyclable but Waitrose's are not???? 

From now on I will be attempting to cut down on the plastic we "consume", but to be honest that will be quite hard, partly as I think we probably already consume less plastic than many other people. So much is wrapped in plastic, often unnecessarily, and often only so that it can be hung neatly on stands in the shops. So much comes in multi packs rather than singly. 

I used to continue to buy Ribena in the glass bottles even when they were also doing it in plastic bottles, but they are all plastic now. You can still buy tomato ketchup in glass bottles (it's actually slightly cheaper surprisingly) but how long will it be before that too is only available in plastic ones? Amongst the pile of plastic we had were some tiny bits which I meant to keep separate but forgot, such as the plastic barbs that hold things like socks together. Multiply one lot of those tiny things by all the socks that get sold every year, and that's an awful lot of very tiny weeny bits of plastic probably getting lost in the rubbish or recycling and ending up in those oceans of plastic and inside the fish that swim in them.

I remember when plastic carrier bags first came in. It must have been the early seventies I think, as I was still at school and remember it being rather cool to carry your books to school in one of them rather than one's leather satchel, which had become decidedly uncool....... now look where we are......

Oh and one last thing. I was horrified to learn that there is even plastic in tea bags!!! Actually, for your information, I have been a lifelong user of loose leaf tea, but when Yorkshire Tea stopped doing their hard water tea in the loose leaf version I started buying it in tea bags and then cut them open and emptied out the tea into my tea caddy (which is actually a jam jar). One tea bag's worth of tea does at least two tea pots for me. (Tea making - a post for another day perhaps!!) I put the bags into the compost. Never again. I have now found a suitable alternative loose leaf  tea anyway.

So, that's my plastic confession! What's yours????

Monday, December 11

Darning, more darning, and hooks and eyes

I have a regular customer for whom I have done a lot of mending. When she comes to collect one job she usually brings another, and last time she brought another cardigan of her husband's (cashmere) for me to darn a hole in the sleeve. I will show you my darn, and then another darn, which is SO good that I hadn't even realized it was there!

This is the front of the hole -

This is the back - 

This is my darn - 

According to my book on mending - 

- my darn is a stocking darn. Basically it's probably the sort of darn most people would think of, where you just weave over the hole. It is the best I can do at the moment although I'd like to improve, so if you have any woollies I can darn, send them my way!

Then, when I was looking for my darn to photograph it, I found this superb one in the same sleeve.
Here's the front - 

and the back - 

It is amazing! Not surprising I missed it! When my customer collects the cardigan I shall ask her who did it - I hope she can remember. She has always been happy with my work so I don't think she will mind that my darn is nothing like as invisible as this other one.

I have looked at the different types of darn in my book but haven't managed to work out what type it is. 

Hooks and eyes

The same customer asked me to replace the hook and eye on a skirt, which is probably wool (no label inside to tell me) and certainly not mass market, although I've looked up the name and can't find anything about it.

This is the waistband after I'd removed the old hook, which was bent, probably because it was the wrong size and not strong enough, and what looked as if it was meant to be a handmade bar, but wasn't really doing anything.... As you can see, the two sides of the waistband are not level. The zip has also been sewn so high that to then pull the sides closer together to do up a hook and eye is very difficult. 

I was also surprised that the pattern matching at the back was not done properly! It matches horizontally but not vertically. You'd have been marked down in "O" - Level needlework (my only qualification!) for that! Not to mention the Great British Sewing Bee! (I wonder if that's coming back?)

Then I went off at a tangent on the subject of hooks and eyes, and hooks and bars, and hooks and hand sewn bars, and which you use where, but I rather like going off at a tangent as I always learn something new. My tangent got me looking at the collection of hooks and eyes etc that I have in an old ice cream box in my sewing room. I have collected this lot over the years - some of it was probably inherited from my mum and grandma, and some has come with sewing machines I have bought. In my lifetime of sewing I hadn't really taken in the fact that there are such a variety of sizes of hooks and eyes. These below are size 1 and 2, in black and silver. There are "eyes" with most of the hooks, and "bars" on the left. Incidentally, I love the old Newey's artwork in the card at the bottom. I must not go off at a tangent trying to date them.....

Or go off at another tangent and look up "japanning" - it's some sort of finish but what exactly I don't know. "Extra japanned" must be even better! More japanning anyone? Three different styles of Newey's art work here - 

As far as I can remember I have always made my own hand sewn bar, but I have learnt that you should use a metal eye or bar when there is likely to be more pull on it. That makes sense.You use a bar with an overlapped zip, and an eye where one side butts up against the other. The eye should very slightly overlap the edge so that the hook can hook into it. So now I know.

It was hard to do a good job on the skirt because of the zip being sewn too high and the two sides not lining up. I had to sew part of the eye to the zip itself rather than to the skirt. I sewed on a black hook and then thought - ah, I haven't got a black eye in the right size to go with it, silly me! But the silver eye is not that noticeable on the other side. The zip cannot come right up to the top now but I had to do it like that in order to sew the hook and eye on in the right position. Here it is anyway, not perfect but it will do the job for some time to come -  

Believe me it was impossible to do it any better!

What I think is the shame is that the zip and the waistband weren't done properly in the first place on what was probably an expensive skirt. Not to mention the bad pattern matching. But never mind! One wouldn't want to discard the skirt for these reasons.

There was a lot more to these two jobs than I thought when I was given them!