Monday, 21 July 2014

Singer 320K2

Can't believe I haven't posted about this. My first sewing machine was a 319k. I loved that thing (you can see it in previous posts). However, they're really common and after buying a couple more for their bits (e.g. double needle) I saw a picture of a 320k. This was the free arm version of the 319! Only about 5,000 of these were ever made, and I think most of them must have come to Australia. Four were auctioned last week on that auction site. I looked for over a year before finding one and bought a second a couple of weeks ago, during the 320k extravaganza of the Winter of 2014. The first one was more than perfectly adequate, but the second was listed as not working, cheap and had both the darning and straight stitch plates that mine didn't have.
Seems the only way you'll ever obtain anything as rare as these plates is to buy the machine too, so I bought a second one.
I used the first quite a bit, then when readying it for sale I made it like new again (as you do). The lady who bought it last Saturday was extremely happy with her purchase. I told her she could get her money back if she ever sold it. She narrowed her brow as if I'd just sworn at her. "I'll never sell it" she said. I absolutely love selling to people like her, who value them like I do.
I gave her one pack each of sizes 12 and 14 needles, darning foot, embroidery hoop, twin needle, the latter 3 are extremely rare.
The replacement came with a litany of problems. It had been set up for a 15x1 needle, which meant the hook timing would be out (which it was) and until re-set it wouldn't stitch properly, one of the motor brushes was broken in two, it had been re-wired wrongly so it would never have worked and someone had disassembled and reassembled the motor, but left out the part that stops the motor from flopping about and killing itself (that's what it sounded like - very loud banging as it worked). As if that weren't enough he took ages to send it and when he did, the packaging consisted of having a broken down cardboard box wrapped around the outside and nothing at all to prevent the insides from moving, so the fashion disc box was broken in transit. Miraculously nothing else was broken. After a few days of working at it, it sews quite well (although not perfect yet). Both machines were made in 1959.
Something that puts a lot of people off these Singers is that they use the 206x13 needle. Only Schmetz makes them and today they only make sizes 12 and 14. My friend's OSMG (old sewing machine guy) said that he modifies them to take a 15x1 needle. When my jaw dropped he said he doesn't change the hook timing but removes a small amount of metal from the bobbin case - the part the needle hits. Good idea, and this is the only way you could get away with using a 15x1 needle without ruining the stitch quality.
I'm now thinking of getting him to do this on a spare bobbin case and trying it out. There are no needles available for this machine if you want to sew heavy fabrics like denim (although I still have about 5 size 16s, they're not replaceable), but the machine is more than capable of handling it, so such a modification would be worth testing. Obviously I'll let you know the result.

The Mystery Cabinet

A couple of months ago (21/3) I bought a 319k on eBay. Why I'd buy such a common machine when I have a 320k is that it was sitting on a very interesting looking treadle table. It had plywood nailed on top and obviously no cover. Luckily I had a coffin lid from a VS2 I bought a year or so back.
My dad did all the work and my friend provided a set of semi-usable treadle irons. Put it all together and we just needed to know what sort of machine went in it. I'd assumed it was for a VS2. Well, it did look the same, but dad discovered that the hinge holes were too close together. I was going to drill and saw it so the VS2 would fit but decided against it. Did a load of research on it and found that the VS3/28 was a 3/4 size VS2 so waited until one came up and bought it. Of course it didn't fit. At around the same time as the 319 purchase I'd discovered the original version of the Singer model 15 was from the 1800s. Imagine an 1800s machine with a round bobbin. Even better was that it was originally a fiddle base. I'd thought then that I wanted one. So... my friend (also an enthusiast) pointed to an auction for two "museum pieces" just two weeks ago. She only wanted one of them but the other, a Singer, was unknown to her "which model is this?" she asked. My eyes widened, I got excited, you guessed it: An 1886 Singer 15-1 or "Improved Family" fiddle base.
We planned the auction strategy, won both machines and split the booty appropriately.
You see that hint of decal? I'd assumed it was painted over but it seems that really old machines with a shellac exterior go very dark when left exposed to dirt etc. Seeing as this one came with no cover or cabinet (or bobbin winder, or upper tension mechanism, but that's not relevant), it was safe to assume this is what happened. I've been applying kerosene (recommended for gentle dirt removal) but no dirt is coming off the machine's exterior, although plenty came from the inside. I've since fitted it with a tensioner from a model 66 but the bobbin winder might be a problem. Since the machine was made in new york there are a lot more of these in North America. I'll just have to be patient and wait until the bits come up. After all, what are the chances I'd have won this incredibly rare machine and just happen to have won its even rarer treadle cabinet a few months before?
A very old lady having a bath - oo-er!
Oh and I fully intend to use this machine. It was the first sewing machine in the world to use 15x1 needles, which were invented and named for this very model and the world's first circular bobbin. Cyndy Kitt imports and sells the little bobbins. It also uses normal Singer low shank feet, so my attachments and feet will all work.
I'll put her into the cabinet very soon and take some more pictures. Here is one I took just after popping it in as a test:

Harrington jacket

Not really sure why I'd put this here. To brag is just ridiculous. I'm critical of my abilities so why share unless I can show someone else how to do it.
Well, I'm quite "financially challenged" most of the time, and particularly now I'm in the teaching "industry" so when my Harrington (generic one by Merc, not a real one) faded and was wearing out what does an amateur seamster do?

Hardest thing to get is the sleeve ribbing, so I had to get that first then match up the drill, which is far more common and buy whatever tartan I can find at the right price (appropriate attitude, considering). The original tartan was made from poly viscose, basically crap, so I bought some poly wool.

This is the part I can't share with you: The pattern. I had the local pattern maker draft a paper pattern from the old jacket and copied it.

Can probably go into great detail next time I make one (which will be very soon) but if you have a suggestion as to how I can digitise the pattern without lectra or gerber please let me know.

Pockets were extremely hard to finish and this is the weakness of the garment. My colleague (who also sews) spotted it almost straight away. Pocket welts have to be done by hand.

The Reader's Digest complete guide to sewing was invaluable, and I recommend it highly. Probably not entirely complete but certainly a great resource.

Here's the finished jacket:

The pockets look a different colour but it's just camera weirdness. I love wearing this jacket. It's a lot warmer and heavier than the old one.

Tip: Make at least three practice pockets before approaching your real garment. I did and although it's still not perfect it's pretty good.
After I took these pics I scotch garded it. The Baracuta G9 is waterproof, and as if a Harrington isn't practical enough already, staying dry is pretty great.
I promise to describe construction in detail next time and have to add an entry now for my new sewing machine.
Sewn on a 1959 Singer 320k2, buttonholes worked on 1892 Singer VS2 treadle with buttonhole attachment.