Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Williams Sewing Machine - a bit about the history

My New Williams Sewing Machine has kindled my excitement.

I've been able to find very little information about this machine on-line and even less about the company that made it. But there are a few snip-its here and there. I've gathered together what I've found, although, I'm sorry to say that many of them contridict eachother. Hopefully this might provide a starting place for the next person to research this topic. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment. I would love to learn more.

I know, I know, this is all going to be very boring, and rather unorganized. I'm sorry. The goal is to get the history bit out of the way before focusing on the fun part: the restoration.

  • The New Williams Sewing Machine was made by the Williams Manufacturing Company (W.M.F.C.Co. - as it says on my treadle base). The W.M.F.C.Co. began in 1863, but sources cite different dates when this company ended. Here we are told that the company lasted until 1899, however, I suspect that they have confused the dates. At the McCord Museum we are told that the fine fellow that did this beautiful engraving died in 1899. And here we are told that the W.M.F.C.Co. liquidated in 1929.
I'm inclined to find in favour of the later date because in earlier research I saw references to the W.M.F.C.Co. in the records of the Canadian Houses of Parliament post 1900 - mostly talking about how companies reacted to some new import/export taxation that the government imposed.

So, I'm going to (tentatively) say that The Williams Manufacturing Company lasted from 1863 - 1929.

  • A list of models (and dates) made by The Williams Manufacturing Company 'borrowed' from here:

C. W. Williams Manufacturing Co. Est 1863
Williams Manufacturing Co. by 1877 1885 +
Williams Manufacturing Co. Ltd by 1893 - liquidated 1929
  • Factory: Plattsburgh, New York. 1878 also at 347 Notre Dame Street, Montreal, Canada. (destroyed by fire 1882)
    Machine Made:
  • Williams' Singer
  • Williams' Improved Singer Family 1871 - 1877
  • Williams' Improved Medium
  • Williams' Hand machine
  • Williams' No. 2
  • Helpmate No's 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. 1884 - 1893
  • New Williams 1884 - 1902
  • Where we also learn that the W.M.F.C.Co existed under two previous incarnations giving us a more detailed history. However, it's good to note that I haven't found any data on-line that confirms these dates.

    This list here also says that the Montreal Factory burnt down in 1882 - two years before the earliest date that my machine could have been made. But my machine claims to be manufactured in Montreal. I need to do more research on the Montreal connection.

    According to the above list, in 1885 the Williams Manufacturing Co became the the Williams Manufacturing Co Ltd. There is no sign of a Ltd. on any of my parts, machine, cabinet, or the tin case that came with the machine.

    As I said before, the patent date on my machine is 1884 which gives us the earliest date it could have been manufactured. That there is no sign of the Ltd anywhere, gives us a good (not a perfect one mind you) change that the latest my machine could have been manufactured is 1885.

    • The Williams Manufacturing Company were in direct competition with Singer, and as far as I could tell, took quite a gouge out of the market in certain parts of Canada and the US.
    • Here is a nifty story about Mr Simkins who use to sell New Williams sewing machines in Canada.
    • I saw at least one example on the internet of a New Williams electric machine (a clone of the Singer 15 series) from post 1940 - this conflicts with everything we've seen so far. Could this be a different incarnation of the W.M.F.C.Co? Or, could this be another company using the title New Williams for a specific line of machines?
    • The Smithsonian Institute has an interesting collection relating to the Williams machines. Some of these are for the Williams Singer machines - not sure yet what that is. But it is advertised as being 100% Canadian with all the parts and materials coming from Canada or the UK - very slightly anti-US advertisement.

    One of the biggest problems I had researching this is that there have been several different Williams Manufacturing Companies over the years, including one in the 1940's that made fortune telling and gaming machines. It's also possible other companies just used that title for their own machines. This just goes to show you how limited googling around the internet in search of historical data really is. A lot of forums that talk about New Williams machines appear to confuse data from other companies. I need to find a better source of information.

    Hope you guys are not as confused as I am at this juncture. I'm off to get a library card and hopefully find some more solid leads.

    Friday, December 30, 2011

    New Williams Antique Sewing Machine

    These are the photos that were on the add.

    The cabinet is very unusual - especially for a treadle sewing machine.

    I've had a lot of fun the last year or so repairing and using old sewing machines, but never have I had a chance to play (um, I mean work) with one this old before. This machine dates from the 1880'ish. The patent is 1884, so we know it was made on or after that date.

    Considering these guys were some strong competition for Singer Sewing Machines back in the day, there is surprisingly little information about them on-line. So I plan to post my adventures here. Maybe it will be helpful for the next lucky person who comes across one of these machines.

    If anyone else has a machine like this, please leave a note. I would love to hear about your experiences.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    My garden needs your help

    Even though I'm not around my blog much these days, I still cannot quash the desire to journal.

    So I've decided to give a go at journalling my farm's activities on this bata site called Your Garden Show. It's quite a nice site; I can add pictures, journals, plant information. They promise that eventually there will be a form where we can share information about growing and plants, and all the good things that gardens have to offer.

    There is even a contest. Now this is where I need your help.

    First, walk on over and visit my garden: Nacton Farm

    (Nacton is named after the house where my G'pa was born)

    On my farm's page there is a banner that says something like 'fabulous food garden, vote here' with a green check mark. You click on the check mark to vote.

    It's as simple as that. You can vote every day if you like.

    I don't imagine for a moment that I have a shot at winning. There are far too many fabulous gardens in the contest, for starters. Also, it's more a popularity contest rather than a contest of skill, and I've never been very popular.

    But I would be very happy if I could be in the top 20 by the end of the contest. So what do you say? Help me out?


    ps. you might need to log in to vote. I'm not sure how this whole thing works - it is a bata site after all, so they might be changing things from day to day.

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    Japanese-ish Radish Pickles

    I have a confession to make. I don't actually like radishes. It's not as though there is anything wrong with them, exactly, it's just they have never ingratiated themselves to me. The roots are too crunchy, the leaves too prickly. They grow too quickly in the garden, often going to seed before you get a chance to pick them.

    But they are very pretty, and I would love to love them.

    I decided to try a Japanese pickle recipe from Just Bento. It took very little time to prepare a weeks worth of pickled radish. Plucking a few pieces out of a jar is far more convenient than going down to the garden, picking, washing, cutting...&c. radishes each day.

    It tastes good, but I bet it would have tasted even better if I had some Ume Vinegar and daikon. Here's what I did:

    About 20 small radishes, fresh from the garden
    1/2 cup rice vinegar
    2 Tbs Honey

    • Prepare the radishes, cut the leaves and tips from the root. I'm keeping the leaves to make one of these two rice spice recipes: Spicy radish leaves Furikake or Radish leaves, bonito and shrimp furikake. Put in a ceramic or glass jar with a lid.
    • Mix the vinegars and honey together, poor over the radishes. You want the radishes to be covered by the pickle juice so if you don't have enough, see the original recipe for adjusting the amounts.
    • They are ready to eat the next day, and will keep well for a little over a week.

    This recipe makes radishes quite acceptable to me. But I be some of you are wondering why bother? If I don't much like radishes, why eat them?

    I want to eat vegetables that I usually shun because I feel it's important to get more variety in my diet. If I can eat more of what I grow and increase the number of different kinds of plants in my diet, then maybe I can acquire a greater range of nutrients from my food and spend less money on vitamins and supplements.

    It's actually great fun trying different recipes. The best part is working with fresh from the garden produce. It's so colourful.

    Now, if only I could find a way to like Kale.

    Thursday, August 04, 2011

    Farm life - Lunch

    I went to the garden today for lunch.

    Baby beet greens, scarlet runner beans, fresh carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, and the first lemon cucumber of the year. It's going to be a great lunch.

    In other news, I'm sorry I'm so slow getting back to everyone. July fizzled out and I did my usual thing for dealing with stress: withdrew from the world. I'm still working on getting back to things, so please be patient.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2011

    Tour de Fleece 2011 - Chakra and alpaca question

    Taking a break today from spinning purple fibre to work on my Charkra.

    Maybe it's just sitting on the floor, or the stretch of the shoulders when you do the long draw. Whichever it is, I find this wheel really enjoyable to work on.

    On a slightly related topic: do you think it is possible to wash Alpaca fibre in Cold water? There is very little grease in it, so I imagine that water temp is less important. And before you tell me what soap or detergent to use, I will use Orvus paste (due to allergies).

    Tuesday, July 05, 2011

    Tour de Fleece 2011 - ply

    Sometimes I feel like I'm cycling on one of those exercise bikes: stationary.

    Right now there is so much else going on that it took three days just to spin one bobbin worth of singles. There is no noticeable decrease in the amount of fibre left to spin for this project... I just have to have faith that I am actually going to finish this one day.

    But in the mean time, I thought I would ply today.

    I like Navajo plying for sock yarn. If done properly it is easier than regular plying and makes a really smooth yarn. It also helps show off the colours of the wool to their full advantage.

    As for mummy hen, she's still hanging on. She can drink on her own now, but still has internal bleeding. We will just have to wait and see.

    Sunday, July 03, 2011

    Tour de Fleece 2011 - the crash

    Yesterday on the Tour de France there was a moment when a spectator stepped out into the road into the mas of cyclists. A great tangle of bicycles and riders literally, piled up, delaying many of the top riders by over a minute.

    My first day on the Tour de Fleece didn't go much better.

    Thanks to the time difference, I settle down to watch the Tour de France in the pre-dawn light. The rhythm of my wheel counters the banter of the sports castors. I love this event because I get so much spinning accomplished in three short weeks. I suppose I get into a 'zone'.

    Yesterday morning a hen came cooing at my window - far too early in the day for a chicken to be out of bed, especially if you consider that I hadn't unlocked the hen house yet. It turns out that someone else had unlocked it for me and helped themselves to a hen, several baby chicks and just about ripped off the head from my mummy chicken!

    This hungry bandit was a raccoon.

    I spent a great deal of time yesterday nursing mummy hen back to life. She has one chick still alive, so I hope she will pluck up the strength to pull through.

    Since yesterday's spinning is so pathetically small, I decided to share a picture of mummy hen instead. I know she looks just awful, but truly, she is doing worlds better than yesterday.

    She can open her other eye now and can stand up on her own for almost 20 seconds. She's far more alert but I'm still not certain if she is eating or drinking on her own yet. It's still touch and go, but hens are remarkable creatures, so I have hope.

    Saturday, July 02, 2011

    Tour de Fleece 2011 - the start

    I don't remember how many years I have participated in the Tour de Fleece now. But I tell you, I look forward to it all year.

    The Tour de Fleece is an event that hundreds (maybe thousands) of spinners take part in. We spin yarn while the brave cyclists race the Tour de France. Every race day during those three weeks that the cyclists ride, we spin.

    For me, this year has been a bit different. Life has been overwhelming! I feel buried beneath a mountain of fleece and other projects that need tackling yesterday.

    My goal for the Tour de Fleece this year is to slowly plug away at some of these projects and hopefully by the end of the next three weeks, be less swamped by fibre.

    If I am very lucky, I will be able to start spinning the fibre from my recently shorn alpacas!

    Today I start spinning this Lovely fibre for a friend. She will me knit me socks, I will spin her sock yarn.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Farm life - living shade

    I got the idea reading this article in the Asahi Shimbun (a Tokyo newspaper). It talks about charity organizations giving out seeds so that people can plant shade curtains near their house.

    These living curtains, usually made of fast growing vines like squash or morning glory, shade the wall from the sun and the heat of the day - reducing the need for air-conditioning and lowering the internal temperature between 2 to 5 degrees.

    For me, the great thing about them is how beautiful they are. The air can flow right through them, creating a gentle rustling sound and a cooling breeze. I think it's a great idea.

    Sadly, I can't grow a curtain of shade outside my bedroom window. It gets the full brunt of the sun in the evenings making it the hottest room in the house (by at least 4 degrees) in the summer. So my solution...

    ...Hanging baskets. This city is famous for them after all. Though, to be completely honest, I don't much like them. Too many flowers! They tend to be just too showy and think they are better than they are.

    So, instead, I bought leafy plants that will hang down and provide a different sort of living shade. They are all sun to part sun plants that can withstand some mild drought. Not as fragile as most of the plants they were selling for hanging baskets.

    Oh, and by the way - no, I don't speak Japanese. I get the English version of that newspaper on my Kindle.

    Thursday, June 09, 2011

    Back to Basics

    Just wanted to mention, the electronic version of Basic to Basics is on sale at for a limited amount of time.

    I absolutely love this book. It's been around for ages, so if e-books are not your thing, I bet you could find it at a flee market or your local second hand book shop.

    Monday, June 06, 2011

    Farm life - Mr Quail

    While Mr Quail waits for his lady friend to hatch out her eggs, he has been hanging in our yard. Actually, he's become quite tame and even let me take his photo.

    Sunday, June 05, 2011

    Farm life - compost

    Look at that beautiful soil:

    All, alright, it's ugly now, but in a few weeks, it will be dark, rich earth; just itching to make plants grow.

    There are lots of way to transform food waste into soil. My favourite way, developed when I got my first allotment garden. The topsoil there was less than an inch before it hit hardpan, so there was virtually no way to make things grow.

    Being the cheapskate that I am, I wasn't interested in buying soil, so I decided to make my own using a method common about a hundred and fifty years ago: trenching.

    First, you dig a trench, then you put a medium amount of compost material in it. If you have a lot of things to compost, don't fill up the trench too far, just save some for the next trench. Believe me, less haste makes more speed. This goes for everything in gardening.

    I usually put a small scoop of lime in with the compost. This helps reduce any possible smell that would attract critters to dig it up. Also, it helps balance the PH of the soil.

    Next I chop up the compost with the edge of the shovel. This makes it degrade faster and reduces the bulk for the next step.

    Next, dig another trench beside this one. Use the soil from the new trench to cover the one you just made.

    If you dig too close, then you end up digging up what you just buried.

    When all is said and done, it should look something like this:

    A mound of dirt with compost under it, and a trench next to it waiting for more compost.

    When the time comes for more compost to be trenched, re-dig the trench. It tends to fill in over time. The deeper the trench, the better things are.

    If you want to try this method, take the time and do it right.

    One advantage to this method I've found (aside from not attracting rats) is that the soil gets dug an extra time or two during the year which reduce weeds and somehow increases worms.

    You can also use this to compost most garden waste like bean stocks (chop them up small). Not tomatoes or potatoes though - it encouraged disease in the soil.

    Saturday, June 04, 2011

    Farm Life - grey water

    Two days ago was the last of the rain. Traditionally we won't see water falling from the sky again until the last two weeks of Augusts.

    It's time to start watering the plants.

    So that we don't run out of water during the summer, we have a grey water system just for watering the plants. Grey Water is water that has been used for things like washing clothes or dishes, but is still safe to use for watering plants and such.

    It's not toilet water - that's called brown water and goes directly into the septic system.

    The water from our kitchen, bath and laundry go into a separate tank near the house. From that tank we can pump the water into buckets or, if we are watering the garden at the bottom of the hill, we use a hose that is gravity fed.

    The overflow from the grey water is purified before it returns to the brook and pond. Flowing through a series of 8 small ponds with different plants in each, that purify the water, and the small waterfalls between each pond that aerate it.

    We can quickly tell how clean the water is by measuring how many mosquito larvae are in each pond and by how healthy the plants are doing. The ducks take care of the mosquitoes before the little bugs get their wings, so no worries there.

    The best plants we've used so far have been the Marsh Marigold and the Water Iris. We also have a couple of types of reeds that flourish under these conditions. You want plants that like a high nitrogen content.

    The most important thing about having a Grey Water system is that you don't use any chemicals that might alter the delicate balance in the water tank or that might harm the filter plants. For example, chlorine bleach is out of the question, but Hydrogen peroxide is quite alright because it degrades into non-toxic substances. Same goes for shampoo, dish soap, laundry soap. Note the lack of 'detergetns' which often have fillers in them that are either harmful in themselves or degrade into harmful substances over time.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Joy and something

    I don't know what happened.

    Sometimes I blame myself, and sometimes I'm just mystified by the loss of it. It just sort of happened, and I don't think that there is anyone to blame. But if something happens, then someone has to be to blame, and there isn't anyone but myself in this... so by that logic, maybe I should blame myself. But I don't, except sometimes, when I do.

    I still don't understand why it happened.

    It happened one day: I realized that I hadn't played with yarn for weeks. I haven't spun, knit, woven, tatted, or anything yarn related for months now. What's that about?

    It's like somehow I've misplaced my joy for yarn. It's probably with my glasses, wherever they've got to.

    I wonder if it will come back, my joy for yarn. I watched this film the other day, about Kiki the witch, who lost her witch powers but found them again when she least expected. I wonder if it's like that.

    But that's why I haven't been around the blog lately. There is just nothing yarn related going on, and I don't know if there will be much in the future. I've just lost my enthusiasm for it. I don't know why.

    The only thing I have enthusiasm for these days (aside from farming) is writing. But that's something that I don't think will go anywhere. I have ideas of what I want to write about, a few stories I want to tell, and I would love to write a book about Household Management, but... I don't have the skills to get beyond the second draft. I wonder if I could find a mentor. I find it hard to motivate myself to write if there is no one to edit what I create.... but that's worry for another day.

    Now, it's time to focus on the farm.

    Friday, March 11, 2011


    I'm very, very worried about the recent earthquake in Japan.

    I have lots of friends there but don't know how to get in touch with them.

    It's made me realize that I've lost touch with so many people over the last few years. If we haven't talked in the last few months or years, and you read my blog, please leave a comment or get in touch.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2011

    Happy Pancake Tuesday everyone

    Today is the day we call Pancake Tuesday in our house.

    It's one of the few remnants of religious holidays that we celibate in our house. This is a modern day version of food traditions that go back several thousand years in Europe.

    This time of year (going by the lunar calendar) is the end of winter. In much of Europe, new shoots are starting to show themselves and there is enough fresh food available to get by on. The larders are almost bare, but there should be some apples, but more likely quince or meddlers, some dried fruit, some flour and lots of eggs. The chickens have just started laying like crazy a few days ago, as opposed to the sporadic efforts to give us eggs during the darkest months.

    In much of Europe, there is a tradition of making a heavy, egg based bread, often with dried fruit and lots of fat. Hot cross buns are a rather yummy, modern equivalent.

    Also in parts of Europe, during different times in history, the use of ovens was strictly regulated (land owner also owned the oven and the farmers had to pay to use it). Most of the cooking was done in a pot or a pan. So if you say, wanted to make a cake in a pan, you could make it a bit runny and then, presto, you have a pancake.

    An over simplified, over romanticized explanation of why we tend to eat pancakes this time of year.

    How Pancakes have become associated with Shrove Tuesday? I just figured that the Church new a good thing when it saw it, and adopted many of the yummy food traditions.

    We eat English pancakes in our household. Although, I've discovered that what the term English Pancake means, depends on where in the UK your family is from. This is what we enjoy:

    English pancakes
    2 cups of flour
    2 eggs
    2 and 1/2 cup of milk.

    makes enough for 4 to 6 very hungry people.
    • Beat together with a fork until there are only small lumps of flour left in the batter. It should be quite runny.
    • Heat up a fry (or crape) pan, cast iron is best. You need to grease or oil the pan. It's a bit hot for olive oil, so grapeseed oil is a good choice if you are going for healthy. Lard works best, but many people don't like to use it.
    • Poor enough of the batter onto the pan to just about cover it in a thinnish layer. Note, this is going to look like a crape, but be several times thicker.
    • When the air bubbles in the batter pop and don't close up again, it's time to flip the pancake. Sorry, I cannot help you there, it's the tricky part.
    • Cook the other side briefly and plate.
    Now for the important part: sprinkle a good tablespoon of sugar on top of the pancake. Poor lemon juice on top, enough to soak into the sugar. The heat of the pancake somehow makes the sugar and lemon syrupy. It's very yummy! Roll up the pancake into a tube, and eat with a spoon (or knife and fork).

    Oh, and if you have a diabetic in the house, may I recommend some extra protein to balance the carbs and sugars. Bacon or sausages go very nicely with pancakes. And for a more complete meal, some OJ or fruit help. But a pineapple for desert would be the best. All those lovely enzymes helping digest the fried foods. Perfect!

    Happy Pancake Tuesday Everyone. What a wonderful excuse to eat pancakes for dinner.

    Saturday, March 05, 2011

    sad news about a beloved yarn shop

    This makes me sad.

    Shelley is such a wonderful person and I hope she succeeds in whatever comes next for her.

    Friday, March 04, 2011

    The Victorian Corset Kit - almost halfway done

    I talked earlier about my goal to learn how to make corsets. I got this idea in my head not because I want to make myself look thinner or more shapely. On the contrary, I tend to wear clothes that do the opposite. Rather it's a mater of weight distribution. I have a rather large endowment that creates an even larger back ache. Modern bras in my size are expensive and difficult to find. So why not learn more about corsets?

    Farthingales offers a Victorian Corset kit. It's just right for beginners like me. It has everything needed to make your first corset. I would say the sewing skills needed are very basic: Sew straight stitch, use a zipper foot, and apply bias tape. The ability to measure is important. But the most important skill needed to create this corset is the ability to follow directions!

    My antique treadle machine (a Singer 127) is the perfect machine for this. It is fast, effortless to use, and every stitch is under my direct control. I'm very happy with how it sews and it doesn't even seem to notice that this fabric is as thick (and as stiff) as poster board.

    One thing I have been learning about is how to make things fit.

    Please forgive my horrid photos - I'm not use to photographing myself in the mirror.

    This is at the stage before I sew the bone channels.

    Lacing it this tight makes it feel like a strong hug. There is no pain or restriction of breath. The stomach ache that I was worried about before I tried the corset, magically disappeared while I was wearing it but returned afterwards.

    I'm wondering if I might have chosen a size too big. The hips feel comfortable, the waist could probably be tighter, but maybe not.

    The bust, however, feels all wrong.

    I've already taken the bust in 2 inches on each side, but it's still quite loose. I was hoping that it would make my bust feel all squishy and supported, but mostly it's, well, not.

    I think it's also too high. I'm going to take 1/2 to 5/8th of an inch off the top.

    This is a size 14 Dore version of the Laughing Moon Victorian Corset, with a D cup.

    So, any corset experts out there? Thoughts? How can I improve this? What should I do differently for my next corset? Will adding the bones improve how it fits the bust?

    Thursday, March 03, 2011

    Titan Special sewing machine from India - Not an antique sewing machine

    People don't take things apart enough any more - Though it is for good reasons, I suppose. I think society trains us to be afraid of the innards of things. Taking apart a something to see how it works might void the warranty, or worse, expose us to some of those highly dangerous chemicals that they use to make electronics these days.

    It seems to be a generational thing as I hear stories of how so and so took apart their dad's radio or bicycle and put it back together again, and even though it worked, they had all these spare parts left over. At which point in the telling of the story, everyone chuckles.

    This sort of activity use to be a right of passage - but now a days you would be foolish to take a part a radio without specialized equipment and a hazmat suit. We have gone a bit beyond the word of vacuum tubes.

    And I think that's a real shame. We are one step further away from being self reliant. Instead of having the time and skills, not to mention the hazmat suit, needed to make simple repairs, we spend more time working so we can spend more money buying new things to replace the slightly broken things in our life.

    The chickens bought me a sewing machine for my birthday. Very nice of them too.

    It's from India, and despite appearances, is very new to this world. Only about 5 to 10 years old, maybe less. Although, it does look like an antique sewing machine and it even has a hand crank to make it operate. So it has the same technology as the vintage sewing machines. It also has only one plastic part: the crank handle. Unlike modern machines it has no electrics, no electronics, and no plastic bits inside to wear out.

    I wonder if it will still sew 94 years from now (the current age of my treadle powered Singer 127, Beautiful Sphinx). It's not as well made as the antique sewing machines, but it is perhaps, better made than many modern machines. It is also much easier to repair.

    The machine is made in the style of a Class 15 clone. Which is good news for me because this manual (pdf) covers most of what I need to know to make it work such as threading diagrams.

    When I brought her home, she didn't work. This is where the taking things apart comes in. At first, I was very nervous. I obsessively took photos of every stage so that I would know how to put it all back together again.

    I could manage a slight wiggle from the machine, but that was it. Even with the clutch engaged, the main wheel kept going without moving anything. I couldn’t see any lint (anywhere - which made me wonder if it had actually been used) or any obvious jams. It did have a heavy grease or motor oil on all the parts that should move. It had hardened to a horrible wax like substance which I suspect did more harm than good.

    So I took it apart the wheel to see if the clutch was working. Aside from more wax/grease, it seemed to be fine. I couldn’t turn the shaft, so I decided to put it back together and try something else.

    Next, I spray WD40 on all the gucked up parts. Don’t worry, I rinsed it out with sewing machine oil afterwards. Still no luck getting it to move, but now there is the sound of metal on metal. Hmm…

    I followed my ears, and found that it was coming from the bobbin area.

    Realizing I should have started here, I took it all apart…

    … and found the problem.

    Such a small bit of thread and yet it prevented the machine from working. I suppose this means that the machine must have been used at some point in the past.

    I reassembled everything, oiled with sewing machine oil, and ran the machine. Listening for anywhere it is running rough, applied more oil, ran the machine some more.

    Now it runs very smoothly. I just have to make some thread guides (the only parts missing) before I can try sewing on it. I won't know 100% if it works until then, but fingers crossed.

    My favourite things about this machine are the decorations (is that Hindi?), the fact that it has metal parts instead of plastic ones, that some parts like the face plates are hand fashioned, possibly out of reclaimed materials and that the brand Titan is also stamped on the parts inside which means that it is not just something they painted on the outside. I also like that it's a hand crank machine that was built not for decoration, but for use; for modern day use to boot.

    Less happy with the fact that I don't think it's as well built as my antique and vintage machines. But it is built to last longer and be easier to repair than fancy modern day machines made for the American market. I also don't like that the paint is chipping in a few places. I'm also not fond of how heavy this beast is. It's portable in so far as you don't have to have a treadle base and table with it. It is not something I want to carry around with me on a long walk.

    I think this will be a good machine for sewing in unusual places. If it works, I plan to use it at an upcoming workshop where I need to bring my own sewing machine.

    Monday, February 28, 2011

    Singer 127 - Thread

    I don't know if this might help or interest anyone out there, but I'm putting together a series of Getting to Know my Antique/Vintage Singer Sewing Machine (Singer 127). Today I learnt about Thread.

    I would like to ask any sewing machine experts to please point out anything I'm doing wrong. I'm a self taught sewer and am learning about the machine by working my way through the manual.

    I'm sewing away at my treadle antique Singer sewing machine (model 127), which I have named beautiful sphinx because of the pretty decals it has on it, and I'm amazed at how fast it can sew. It takes no perceptible effort from me to treadle this machine and sew just as quickly as on any electric machine I ever met. It's so interactive. I can slow down or speed up without thinking. Maybe it's a symptom of spending so many hours at a spinning wheel but I tell you, sewing on a treadle machine is the cat's meow!

    Sewing is no longer an endurance challenge I undertake to acquire clothing, it is now a joyful process in and of itself.

    Which is good news because I've been sewing a lot lately. A wonderful shop commissioned me to sew cloth bags for their store. The bags will then go to another local person who will silk screen the shop's logo on it. It feels really neat to be part of a local economy like that.

    As for the sewing machine. I had the most frustrating morning yesterday. Every time I would get into the rhythm of sewing, something would go wonky. The biggest problem I had was this.

    Can you see how the top thread seems to be fraying? It's like 1 ply of the thread has broken and just refuses to continue sewing. Of course it only does this when I am top stitching so that I have to undo a bunch of sewing every time it happens.

    Whenever something goes wrong with the sewing machine, my first remedy is to re-thread everything. This fixes about 75% of problems. The second remedy is to clean the machine of any lint and give it a bit of oil. This solves just about all the troubles that sewing can produce. But sometimes that isn't enough. This seems to be one of those times.

    I thought that since the thread was fraying above the needle, that maybe the needle was bent. I changed the needle and it didn't happen again. But it has happened before, with different needles. So I'm wondering if the size of the needle is too small for the thread. I am using regular thread but size 10 needle. Thoughts?

    Did you know that not all sewing machines take the same size needle? Some of the older ones require special size needles.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Singer 127 - Cloth Guide and Thumb Screw attachment

    I don't know if this might help or interest anyone out there, but I'm putting together a series of Getting to Know my Antique/Vintage Singer Sewing Machine (Singer 127). Today I learnt about an attachment called The Cloth Guide and Thumb Screw.

    I would like to ask any sewing machine experts to please point out anything I'm doing wrong. I'm a self taught sewer and am learning about the machine by working my way through the manual.

    Among the many attachments that came with my antique sewing machine, I discovered The Cloth Guide and Thumb Screw.

    What a fun name for something that is so extremely useful.

    From a little booklet I found with the attachments:

    This is an attachment designed as a guide for straight stitching when making wide hems, deep tucks or seam widths which are greater than Presser Foot allows. It is attached to the machine as illustrated [a photo not unlike mine here is included in the booklet].....a very simple operation.

    I wish I knew who wrote this booklet and supplied the attachments, but that remains a mystery for the time being. For those who are interested, the booklet is called Direction For Using This Set of Attachments, and has a picture of a Ruffler on the front cover.

    I've been sewing these bags that I mentioned before for a local shop. My sewing machine is directly in front of the largest window in the house with a wonderful view of chickens, ducks, alpacas, wild quail, and all sorts of amusing things. Sometimes I get detracted and as bags require a lot of long straight seams (especially for the handles), I often have to take out my stitching and re-sew. As my attention wonders so does my stitch line. So frustrating, but this cloth guide has really saved the day.

    As you can see, the cloth guide screws into your choice of two holes to the right of the needle. Well, my machine has two holes, I don't know how common this is. You keep the edge of the fabric against the guide as you sew and as if by magic, you are suddenly sewing in very straight lines.

    I was sceptical at first, but I thought it must be worth a try. In my opinion, it is totally awesome and is now part of my every day sewing accessories.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Singer 127 - thoughts on oil and oil wicks

    I don't know if this might help or interest anyone out there, but I'm putting together a series of Getting to Know my Antique/Vintage Singer Sewing Machine (Singer 127). Today I learnt about The Wick.

    I would like to ask any sewing machine experts to please point out anything I'm doing wrong. I'm a self taught sewer and am learning about the machine by working my way through the manual.

    I was reading the manual I downloaded for my treadle powered Singer 127 (Beautiful Sphinx), trying to figure out what to oil. The diagram is, um, well, blurry would be an understatement. If I could figure out where to oil, I would take a photo of the machine and photoshop some brightly coloured arrows to each oiling point. Of course, I also have to relearn how to photoedit, but that comes with the territory.

    Reason tells me that I'm not the first person online to wonder about how to oil my antique sewing machine. One would assume that a google search would produce the photos I was planing to make. Surely someone else out there had trouble interpreting the manual and thought why not make life easier for others.

    But no. Either my google powers are too weak or the photos I seek are not out there. Maybe everyone else can understand what is meant when the manual says to apply a drop of sewing machine oil to each of the places indicated in the blurry picture.

    If anyone knows of such a resource, please point me in the right direction. I'm really not in the mood to download a photo editing program and learn how to use it.

    There is however, one resource I've come across recently that is promising. Treadle On is a site focused on Human Powered sewing machines. I love that, human powered bit. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    Treadle On has resources like how to get that gucked up old machine you found at a garage sale working again: cleaning and lubricating a machine head.

    There are also some nice resources about the vibrating shuttle machines. My Singer 127 is a vibrating shuttle sewing machine. Happy days!

    On the page about winding and threading the shuttle, I found this photo.

    Now the manual for this machine tells me that I should fill the wick with oil, but I couldn't find it anywhere on my machine. But here it is. Just a bit of red felt. See the internet can be a great resource after all.

    I'm off to go cut myself a wee bit of felt to stick in my wick hole. (wait. did that sound rude?). I hope that will do the trick. The more I use the machine the louder the shuttle seems to get. Fingers crossed that this is all that I'm missing.

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    It arrived!

    The most exciting thing happened to me yesterday: My Victorian Corset making kit arrived from Farthingales. It has the Laughing Moon Victorian corset pattern and everything I need to make it including fabric and bones and other stuff. I am super-excited about making this.

    Farthingales added a little note with the kit with some suggestions. The kit itself is for the Dore version of the corset (the pattern has two different styles of corset in it and a whole range of sizes) and it is suggested that I use this kit as a starting point to learn how to make a corset and how to alter the pattern if necessary.

    Apparently the Dore is easiest to make, but I think that the other corset, the Silverado is more what I need for my body type. Given that I want this to be for support rather than shrinkage, I am tempted to make the Silverado, but then again, this is a project for learning and I think both patterns will do the job.

    The fabric included in the kit is true corset fabric. A tight herringbone cotton called Coutil. This is very strong and has virtually no give to it which will be perfect.

    The fabric is also very white. There is a definitely need for decoration.

    I was thinking that I might add some flossing to the corset. Flossing is not only very pretty embroidery, it also helps to strengthen the fabric at the tips of the bones so that the bones don't wear holes and start poking. Here are some exciting examples of flossing.

    I wonder at what stage of corset making do I floss my fabric?

    Sigh... As much as I want to get started, that's all plans for the future. Right now I'm working away at my very first sewing job. A local shop has very kindly given me the contract to sew the cloth bags for their store. They will then either paint, stamp, silk screen, or all of the above, their logo on the bags.

    Isn't it wonderful when a local business gives the work to local craftspeople instead of ordering from some multinational corporation? Well I think they are just the cat's meow. Now back to my sewing machine. When I get these bags done than I can take some time and sew for myself.

    Wednesday, February 09, 2011

    Singer 127 - the narrow hemmer foot!

    I don't know if this might help or interest anyone out there, but I'm putting together a series of Getting to Know my Antique/Vintage Singer Sewing Machine (Singer 127). Today I learnt about The Hemmer Foot.

    I would like to ask any sewing machine experts to please point out anything I'm doing wrong. I'm a self taught sewer and am learning about the machine by working my way through the manual.

    I would have to say that the narrow hemmer foot is one of my most favourite sewing tools. It ranks right up there with a sharp pair of sewing scissors. A hemming foot is amazing! It can be used to make a very narrow hem (less than 1/4 inch of fabric used), for making a very narrow enclosed seam called a felled seam, and for a few other things.

    To make a hem using this foot, place the fabric wrong side up. Press the edge that you are about to sew over about 1/4 an inch (a little less is good) for most of an inch along the edge. You can use your fingers for this like I do, or you can get out your trusty ironing board.

    Place this folded over section under the pressure foot.

    Sew two stitches and on the third stitch, stop with the needle in the fabric. Work the edge of the fabric gently up into the swirly part of the hemmer foot. You need to make certain you don't have too much fabric or too little, but knowing how much that is only comes with practice.

    Continue to sew along the edge adjusting the direction of the fabric with your left hand and using your right hand to guide the hemming edge into the hemmer foot.

    Trust me, it sounds simpler than it is.

    I recommend that you practice and practice and practice before attempting this on your finished project. Good news! There's an easy and frequent way to practice this technique.

    And there you have it. A tidy narrow hem accomplished in one swift pass of the sewing machine.

    Have you ever brought fabric home from the shop, sewn something without washing the fabric first then have your effort shrink drastically in the first wash? Maybe you are smarter than me and have never had this happen; but, my very first sewing project when that way and now I wash every yard of fabric that I bring home. First. Before sewing.

    Besides, there are a lot of chemicals and sizing that goes into cloth these days and I don't like being exposed to nasty toxins while I sew so I wash out as many of them as I can.

    If you just bring the fabric home and stick it in the washing machine, the cut edge frays and you end up with (sometimes quite a bit) less fabric than you started with. If you sew a quick zig zag stitch along the cut edges, then it really cuts down on the fraying.

    Or, you could practice your awesome hemming foot skills along the cut edges of the fabric before washing it.

    It's a great opportunity to practice. You have a nice long streight edge and it's not going to show in your finished project.

    A few other things you can use this foot for:

    • You can make a narrow felled seam (more on that later I hope)
    • You can add lace while hemming (I don't have any lace on hand at the moment, so I cannot show you that just yet)
    • You can use it to finish the edges on seams
    • you can hem with it.
    • I like to use it for the inside edge of the facing on blouses.

    A few pointers for using this hemmer foot:

    • First and foremost do a nice large sample on the same fabric that the finished hem will be on. The thread tension is all different for this than for regular sewing and takes a while to adjust.
    • Remember to check the underside (right side) of the fabric as you sew as that's the side that will show.
    • Use a sharp needle. Some reason dull needles make the whole thing messy.
    • Works best on thinner fabric like quilting cotton or thinner.
    • I've never tried it on knit fabrics, but I know it works well on woven
    • It makes a great edge for handkerchiefs
    • Just have fun with it. It's a great little helper and you never know when an occasion to use it might present itself.
    Oh and one more thing: Don't do the back stitch thing to secure the stitching. Tie the individual threads in a knot at each end when you have finished sewing. If you are just putting it directly in the washing machine, you don't really need to do that, just leave about an inch when you clip the threads. I've never had it unravel.