Cycling and walking

Wednesday, April 4

Singer 413 sewing machine brought back to life

Having said that I seem to attract sewing machines that are a bit unusual, this one has nothing unusual about it. However, at the end of this post, you'll be rewarded with a pic of the next unusual one I've just acquired........

This Singer 413 was brought to me by a local lady, via my Facebook page "Needle and Thrift". She was looking for recommendations of someone to service it. I told her the address of the excellent Tom Dilley of Swindon, but also told her what I could do. She brought the machine to me and said she was having a problem with the stitch, which she said was looping underneath and was a bit tight.

Here is the machine when I got it -

Outside generally grubby....

More grubbiness.....

And more....

1 I'm learning to do one thing first when someone brings me a machine that they are having problems with, and that is to see if the bobbin is in the right way round. In this case, it wasn't, so that wouldn't have helped with the stitch problems.

2 Before I did any work on it, I wanted to know that it would actually start, so I plugged it in and pressed the foot controller, aka the pedal (but you get told off by vintage Singer experts for calling it that). Nothing happened. Logic told me that the first place to investigate was the plug, so I took it apart, and found that one wire was completely unattached from where it should be. I confess that I have never actually rewired a plug; decades ago in the machinery bit of my agricultural college course I was taught how to, but just to make sure I was doing it right I consulted the internet and carefully put the wire back in place. Tried again - bingo! Light on and motor running. So then I removed the machine from the base, removed the top, the face plate, the needle and the needleplate, the bobbin case and the clutch wheel (with help, see below).

3 The next task was to remove all the fluff from the bobbin area, and from behind the faceplate. Just when you think you've removed it all, you find some more, and some more, and some more..... I was removing it from the top and from underneath as well.

I'm not quite sure how best to describe this really.......almost enough fluff to stuff a mattress.

A bit more fluff behind the faceplate but not too bad.

The clutch wheel at the side had been stuck - quite a common problem I'm finding - and it was Husband who annoyingly loosened it without much difficulty. I say annoyingly because I hate it when I try and loosen something, can't do it, and then he comes along and does it, with a slightly smug expression on his face......!!!! I always think to myself - oh well it's because I've obviously already helped the process along by my constant trying. It's the same when you've got a jar you can't keep trying, can't do it despite gripping it with a rubber glove, and lo and behold Husband does it just like that. It's also a bit like (sorry about these similes but I need to get this out of my system) when I washed the kitchen floor once and left a mark, which Youngest then-teenage Son noticed a little while later, and promptly removed with ease. I mean, OBVIOUSLY my previous attempts had loosened it but he got the glory!! Huh.......

In the next photo, with that clutch wheel removed, there is old grease on the stop motion clamp washer (that thing with the three sticky out bits), which, unless I'm much mistaken, shouldn't be there. As far as I have learnt, all that is necessary is to put a drop of oil on the shaft that the handwheel sits on, so I removed the washer, pulled the handwheel away from the machine a little, and did just that. Then I put the cleaned washer back on.

NOTE: I always take a photo of this washer before removing it, so that I get it back on in the right position for it to perform its task. I won't go into any more detail about that as there are far better places on the internet to go to find out about it! E.g. here on The Vintage Singer Sewing Machine Blog. Basically this is all to do with stopping the needle going up and down when you are winding the bobbin.

Old grease on the washer

I cleaned the outside, including the base, with a slightly damp cloth, some dry brushes, some slightly damp brushes and lots of elbow grease. There was still quite a bit of yellowness on that front plate, so I had a go at that with the damp cloth and a tiny bit of Astonish paste, after which it looked considerably better.

I oiled all the oil points.

7 When I put the presser foot back on, I found it wasn't sitting parallel to the feed dogs, which meant that the needle was very nearly hitting the foot when using anything but straight stitch. I looked and looked at the presser bar to see if that was the problem, wondering if it wasn't upright, but I have to admit that here Husband again came in handy as it was him that saw it was slightly twisted. A turn of the screw that holds the presser bar to the machine was all that was necessary to put it right. Thank you Husband........ What's good about doing all these different machines is that I learn something new every time. And also that Husbands come in handy.

Incidentally, in my opinion, anyone learning to sew should first be taught the basics of looking after their machine, and told - "READ YOUR MANUAL!". They could save themselves a lot of money and frustration when things go wrong. All this mechanical stuff doesn't come all that naturally to me, whereas it does to Husband and Sons, but I have learnt a lot just by reading manuals. In fact, I'm a great fan of manuals - whenever we get a new machine of any sort I read the manual first. Eldest Son, however, when he was about 7 and got a digital watch for a present, was diving in straight away, and I think I probably said -

"Read the manual first!"

But ignoring his mother, off he goes, pressing this and that and getting it working in no time at all. That's the difference between his brain and mine.

When it was all put back together, I tested out the stitches. I just couldn't get certain stitches to work, and thought - "What am I doing wrong?". Frustration........... So I opened up the top again and realized that I wasn't turning one of the dials round far enough to the correct position. It hadn't been obvious until I did this.

And now for the "after" photos -

A lot cleaner

Nice and clean on top

Ooh that's better.........

The stitching on the far right in the photo below is not so good. After some adjustments I finally got a good stitch - on the left. It wasn't perfect tension, but I think I got it as good as it was possible to get it - perhaps 85% perfect. I had to tighten the bobbin tension quite a lot, but couldn't get it quite tight enough, and I wonder if the reason for this is the fact that the bobbin case is plastic, and you are screwing a metal screw into this, and perhaps the plastic case has worn slightly over the years (I think the machine is over 40 years old) meaning that it's not possible to tighten the screw enough. That's my guess anyway.

 And here's the next slightly unusual machine -

It's a Singer 3105, and it's made in Brazil. It has been given to me by the lady who bought the Singer Capri that I blogged about previously.

One day we'll be able to eat at this table again. Notice that the cat has still got her eating place.....

Friday, March 23

Singer Capri 141 sewing machine

I know I know, sometimes blog posts are like buses - you don't see one for ages and then six come along at once. Well, in this case, two....

The owner of this machine had had a problem with the tension and so had bought a new one. I picked it up last week and thought - hmmmmmm, Singer Capri, never heard of that. I seem to attract sewing machines which are a bit unusual and about which there is not much information on the internet! I found a few clues in the Yahoo Vintage Singer group, but now annoyingly can't find that information again as the search engine bit isn't working properly. Usually if I search the internet for a machine, it will come up with several for sale, which it did, and at least one that someone mentions in a blog, which it didn't. That's partly why I decided to do a blog post on it, rather than just advertising it for sale. Someone else might be searching for a Singer Capri 141 at this very moment! I found photos of this and other Capri models on, whence I also obtained a manual. No matter how simple a machine is, I don't feel it's complete until I've got the manual to go with it!

It is definitely made by Singer, and in Great Britain, but apart from that all I have managed to find out about this Capri range, is that they were probably made by Singer for the European market. I've no idea why that should mean that there is no information on them on the internet, as surely there must be someone in that big place called "abroad" who is still using one! The name "Merritt" on the foot controller is also a clue to it being different, Merritt being the middle name of Isaac Singer, but that's another tangent I need to go off at another time!

I think it's 1960s or 1970s, and it's a good solid machine with a mainly metal body. It is not quite all metal inside but is in excellent condition. It's a lovely machine and works well! There was actually nothing wrong with the tension; it was probably just a simple case of user error causing the problem. The machine is in fantastic condition, having no scratches or other marks that I can see. I don't think it can have been used much. The lady who gave it to me said it had belonged to her mother-in-law. The only thing wrong with it was that the clutch wheel wouldn't release to stop the needlebar going up and down when winding the bobbin. I tried and tried, and was then going to leave it overnight with some oil hopefully seeping in to the right places, but then Husband had a go and Bob was your uncle - released!

I gave the body of the machine a good clean (and the case), not that it was very dirty at all, removed all fluff from the bobbin area, oiled it, put a new needle in and tested it out. Everything works perfectly and it sews a lovely stitch. It does just straight stitch and zig-zag, and has reverse - simples! I also love the sound of it, which is something of a thing of mine - the sound that different sewing machines make.

Here it is -

With side extension plate

It sewed through several layers of cotton with ease

That all important instruction manual!

I think this might just be my favourite style of foot controller, regarding ease of control, even better than the clam style one I use on my Singer 201.

Foot controller
There are no extra feet with it, just the one for straight stitch and zig-zag, but extra feet are easily obtainable.

So, if you're interested or know someone who might be, I am selling it for £25.

Thursday, March 22

Purl Soho "Quilted Wool Vest" made from an old tent....

Over the winter I have had thoughts of wanting to make some sort of garment to go over my everyday clothes, mainly to disguise them a bit, so that I could wear, for instance, a lovely warm wool cardigan that is a bit on the tight and short side for my liking, but is nevertheless a very useful item for winter wear.

I had a brainstorming session with myself and the internet to find what it was I wanted. I didn't know exactly what I wanted but knew I'd know it if I came across it! The words that went through my head were, not necessarily in this order -

Nehru jacket
Crossover apron (I've made one of these before from my own pattern)

In my search I came across a few garments that nearly fitted the bill, in particular these -

I wanted something really that I could wear all day and not have to change or remove if I went out for a walk or cycle, so, much as I like the longer smocks on this website, I think the short ones are closer to what I had in mind.

You'll notice that one of the words in my list is "tabard" - this can mean either a short garment worn by cleaners etc., or a longer one worn in mediaeval times. I thought that if I could find a tabard (of the cleaner's sort, not the mediaeval sort...) in a charity shop, then I could probably adapt it to what I wanted. Of course it's actually a very simple garment which really I could probably have adapted  from any of my dress or blouse patterns, but as it happened when I next went into my favourite charity shop what do I see but a lovely - ahem - nylon striped one slung over a rail for 75p. So I took it home, took it apart at the shoulders, and started adapting.

I made up a couple of versions (much too basic to deserve the fancy word toile) out of old sheets, and came up with one that I was pleased enough with to think of making it up in a decent fabric. But meanwhile, I had come across this on the Purl Soho website -

Purl Soho Quilted Wool Vest

And their earlier version here

And I thought - "Ah! Maybe I'd like to make one of those..........." You can download the pattern free and it is only 11 sheets of A4. I would not have bothered with it if it had been one of those that has reams of sheets of A4 to print off!Too much printing, and cutting up and joining of pieces!!

If I was going to make this then I intended to make a trial version first, but one that was nevertheless wearable, and didn't want to spend a penny on it (sorry about that rather unpleasant picture that is no doubt now in your head....). I looked several times through my boxes of fabric and the only thing that I had that I had enough of, and that might produce something wearable, was some blue canvas which had once been Husband's boyhood tent! I think I've mentioned it before - when we were moving house in 2016 and clearing out everything, I found it in our outhouse and asked him if I could have it to cut up and maybe sew with, and after some deliberation he said yes, at which point I quickly got the scissors and started hacking before he could change his mind.

Do husbands ever let anything like this go without deliberation, even though they've had it for decades and are NEVER going to use it again? I mean, I ask you, a tent probably 45 years old.........was he really ever going to camp out in that again?  I was surprised that it survived the 60 degree wash I gave it.

For the wadding I used some curtain interlining that I had been given (pre-washed) and for the binding and the pockets I used bits of a denim dress I bought ages ago in a charity shop for £1. 

Here are the results -

The pattern is multi sized. I traced off the size (the second smallest) that I thought would fit, so that if it didn't I would still have the pattern to trace off another size.

Pattern pieces stuck together.

I should say here that I am not a quilter by any means! I know some of the rules, but basically I just make up my own as I go along. I was very pleased with how the quilting went. The instructions say to use a walking foot if you've got one but I haven't, for either of my main machines, so I just sewed very carefully, and found that the upper layer of fabric did not move much at all. I was using my Singer 201 incidentally.

Marking the quilting lines on the wadding.

Here I am trying it on before binding the edges. At this point I thought that the back of the armhole was bagging out too much, but I couldn't do much about it at this stage without ruining the look of the thing. I also thought at this stage that I should have made the next size up, as it did seem a bit tighter than I wanted, but I carried on anyway, although I did cut the armhole deeper by about 1 " as that was definitely too tight.

Trying it on before binding the edges

The finished garment

Before you shout - "The pockets aren't level!" - I know! By that stage I was getting a bit too pleased with how things were going and didn't take enough care to get them right. I think I actually hemmed them incorrectly. Incidentally I made them slightly bigger than the pattern said.

Finished garment

Armhole is just the right depth.

I did think about putting a zip down the front, rather than the press studs in the instructions, but I didn't have a suitable open ended one in my stash so instead used three of these ancient press studs which I had acquired from somewhere -

I am really pleased with how this turned out and have worn it a lot. I have often wondered why people wear this sort of garment but now I am a convert! It gives extra warmth on the upper body which I think is often where you want it. I don't necessarily need the extra warmth on the arms. I now think that the size is good - it is quite close fitting but I like the fact that it holds my others layers close to me. I can also wear it easily underneath my warm cycling jacket. I might consider making the next one slightly longer at the front, in order to cover up the too short cardigan when I wear it!

It isn't quite what I was thinking of when I started out on this quest, but isn't that often how things work out? You go down one path and veer off down another....... I still aim to make up the adapted tabard pattern when I can get hold of the right fabric either free or cheap.

One of my favourite online fabric shops, the Organic Textile Company, is currently awaiting a delivery of pre-quilted fabric. I have not found much pre-quilted cotton fabric available in this country. They previewed it weeks ago and it looks lovely. They told me that they had had problems  getting it, but it's on its way now. It would be lovely for this garment, if you didn't want to quilt your own.