Sunday, 31 May 2015

Demonstrating some attachments using a Singer 319K

The Singer 319K Swing needle machine

I have a soft spot for this machine. It was the first vintage Singer I ever bought. It had a major limitation that I managed to overcome. The limitation was the fact it needed a special needle.

Make it use a normal domestic needle

To overcome this, I had a very experienced sewing machine expert modify the bobbin case to make sure it could safely use normal needles. The 206x13 size is only made in normal point sizes 80 and 90 these days which limits the machine to about 10% of its capabilities. Additionally the twin needles haven't been made for decades and are almost impossible to get.

So, you modify the bobbin and your machine can now do 15x1s. This means you can now sew jeans, canvas, stretchy fabrics, silk. OMG! Hold on, that's not the whole story. You need to read your manual. Yes, yes, I know, only wimps read manuals. In that case I'm a card carrying wimp, but I bet I can do more with my 319 than you can (I'm virtually sticking out my tongue at you).

This one made in 1960, behold the mighty 319K
Below is the last garment I've made (finished it on Friday). About 99% of the work was done on the 319K. The 1% was when I stitched the ribbing to the cuffs. I used a free arm Bernina record because it's a bit easier and I had one right here.
Reversible bomber jacket


The buttonholes on this jacket were made using a Singer buttonholer. You can do without but it's such a huge pain that you wouldn't want to. Besides, old buttonholers are very cheap on that auction site we all know. You'd pay about $15 for one that doesn't use templates or $30 for the template one. I use the latter, because if you try swapping to a buttonhole size you did earlier it's impossible with the non-template one. Consistency is what I look for and the template buttonholer achieves this. Always use the cover plate rather than dropping the feed, because the plate (being higher) increases the foot pressure so it will hold the fabric much better.


The buttons were sewn on with the 319K. You do this for a quick and consistent result. The machine does a far better job than I ever could.
Every zig-zag machine probably comes with a button foot, which is made so you can see more of the button.
Close-up of finished buttons
Here is the button foot with button in place:
Put a needle F-R between the holes
Now, a couple of things to note. Before starting to stitch, lower the feed dog. On the 319 you do this by tilting back the machine as though you were changing the bobbin. You'll see a big thumb screw near the bobbin area. Unscrew it all the way until it gets tight again. You will notice that the feed dog has now dropped and will not smash your button when you start sewing (yes I've done it).
When sewing a button, you'll get a better result if you place a needle front to back between the two holes before starting to stitch it (which I haven't done in this picture). Reason is that after removing the needle, the button will be loose, even though there are many stitches holding it in place. You take all the threads so they are between the fabric and button (use a hand needle if necessary) and in pairs, wind them in opposite directions around the button five times then tie them together. You will have made a shank for your buttons. If you don't do this, the fastened button will pull at the fabric it's closing and this looks pretty bad. The thicker the fabric, the longer the thread you need to leave and of course you need to wind it a few more times.

Roll hem

Ever read in a sewing pattern's instructions "turn 1/4" toward wrong side twice"? Before I discovered the roll hem foot, I was at the ironing board with a ruler struggling to measure and press. My partner told me this is what you have to do, but after reading the manual I learned about this amazing foot.
fabric turned at the back to show the results
It's included with every sewing machine sold since the 1880s and is simple to use. I'd recommend practising for about 30 minutes before going into production. You have to control the feed so the edge and the main parts are even. You can see the result here: Perfectly straight line and consistent stitch.

Engaging the Zig-zag

The zig-zag is engaged by lifting the lever that has a picture of a zig-zag on it. You set the bight (width of zig-zag) and away you go. Very easy indeed.
If you select bight of zero you will get a straight stitch (with any pattern disc) which is obvious if you think about it. Any pattern you select is a straight stitch if the bight is zero.
Pattern relies on bight being more than zero


This is like overlocking/serging except it uses a simple zig-zag right at the edge. Rather than guess, or try some other way of making it straight, use the all purpose foot.
This is in the manual. If you don't have an overlocker, overcasting will finish the seam just as well. Here is the relevant page from the book:
This manual can be DLd free from Singer's web site
This means that you don't really need an overlocker. Hey, you just saved a small fortune!

The Ruffler

How many times have you seen these things and thought it looked like a medieval torture instrument? Never? Maybe it's just me then. Well the ruffler is an excellent tool for ruffling and for creating pleats.
Note plate at top right and screw underneath
The plate at the top is set to 6 here. This means the ruffler will only fold once every six stitches. Stitch length is still controlled by the usual means. The throw of the ruffler (how much fabric it pulls) is controlled by the screw. Some rufflers will have the adjusting screw on top.
You can also set the top plate to 12, meaning it will throw every 12 stitches. Set to 1, every stitch will ruffle, so you better make sure the throw is fairly short or you'll end up with a pirate shirt!


You might notice three pictures above that this fabric has interfacing on part of it. This is because I wanted to show you some embroidery. These days it's referred to as fusing, which is probably a portmanteau of fusible interfacing, fusible meaning it will fuse when you heat it enough to melt the glue. I doubt you can even buy the non-fusible variety these days, I know I've never seen it.
Application is extremely easy. Cut it and place when you want on the wrong side of your fabric. Press the iron at the appropriate heat level (I make it as hot as possible) and put a little pressure on the iron for ten seconds on each part of the fusing. After you do the whole section, it should be fused. If not, do it again. It's a pain when this stuff comes off.

Seam Guide

I haven't bothered with a picture of this, but Lizzie Lenard has a picture of one.
Screw it to the bed of your machine, adjusting to the width of your choice and use it to ensure you sew straight Lizzie's tip of putting felt under it is a good one and will prevent damage to your machine's paint.
Machines made in the latter half of the 20th century (like the 319K) also usually have a needle plate with lines marked 3 to 8. These are eighths of an inch. Also, at central position and with the general purpose foot, the distance between the needle and right side of the foot is exactly 1/4" (2/8) on the 319K (the 201 has this feature too). Very useful, as I frequently need that measurement. For those who are more metrically inclined 1/4" is 6mm, 3/8" is 1cm, 5/8" is 1.5cm. I'm not trying to be smart there. I live in a metric country but learned to sew using pre-metric patterns and pre-metric machines. Metric doesn't come into my sewing very often at all.

Machine Embroidery

First of all I was disappointed last week when I discovered that I couldn't do free motion embroidery successfully on my 319K. I'm pretty sure I tried it on the 320K2 last year successfully and the 320K2 comes with a darning hoop and hopping foot. The only difference between those two models is in the bobbin area, since the 320 has to squeeze everything into that little free arm (no room for droppable feed dog - boo!) but the 320 can do FME, so swings and roundabouts, really. The 319 can't FME but its feed dog drops. Here's what happened when I tried to FME on the 319K: I guided the fabric from front to back (like in regular sewing) and it works but as soon as I moved it sideways or back to front, it won't pick up the bobbin thread and I got skipped stitches. I could just limit myself to going front to back, but I might as well just pop the foot back on and have better control. This is what I did for the self portrait below.
UPDATE: FME does actually work on the 319K. I discovered that this particular machine had an issue where the needle wasn't near enough to the hook to pick up the thread when it was moving any direction other than front to back, and after adjustment, she now does a lovely embroidery stitch.
In the manual it suggests using the stitch pattern, or "fashion" discs (A.K.A. cams) to make pictures. I'd suggest just using the zig-zag and guiding the fabric around the picture you drew (in pencil).
The reason you need to fuse it is that the stitches tend to pull the fabric together during the zig-zag stitch, so it also helps if you reduce the thread tension (I set it to 2. Normally it's at 3.5). You might have to play with it to get it right, so again, use a test piece first.
I just drew a smiley face and traced around it:
Yes I actually do look like this, except my eyes are larger and further down.
So, are you getting the most out of your machine? I love attachments and special feet.The geniuses that invented them didn't do so because they're good gimmicks to sell machines. They were made to save you time and allow you to produce a more consistent result. Learn to use them, don't just look at them, and you'll wonder how you ever sewed without them.


  1. Your Singer 319K looks in beautiful shape! Aren't the accessories and attachments addicting? They might as well be potato chips.

  2. Yes it was in mint condition. I actually sold it a few days later to someone who hadn't seen this.
    I just use the bits as necessary, but they certainly make the work a lot easier, neater and more consistent.