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Vintage Finds

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I need another sewing machine like I need a hole in my head. But, I think this video of my oldest is all the justification I need:

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If this machine could talk, she would have quite the story to tell. I found her on craigslist for $110 — making her my most expensive VSM yet. It’s difficult to find hand crank sewing machines here in the US so I didn’t feel too guilty for paying a premium for her. This particular machine has a few bonus features that aren’t found on more common Singer models, too. For one, it has a stitch-length lever (not a knob!), which includes a reverse (!!!). This machine also has an ejection button for the shuttle, which is super cool.

The gentleman who sold her to me said it belonged to his grandmother and then his mother, both of whom were “master seamstresses.” He insisted that it was a Singer, but lucky for me, it is not ūüôā Of course, realizing what *it is not* is quite different from knowing what *it is,* ha! After hours (and hours) of scanning photographs, I tracked the machine to Germany and then finally identified its manufacturer. As it turns out, this machine was never made for the US market and must have been carried across the Atlantic by one of its previous owners. I am so fortunate to own such a treasure!

This Vibrating Shuttle (VS) hand-crank machine was made by Bernhard Stoewer AG, around 1907-1910. The machine was probably badged, but the decals with the badged name are long gone. Similar machines can be found here: http://www.needlebar.org/cm/thumbnails.php?album=181, http://www.sewmuse.co.uk/german%20sewing%20machines%203.htm, and http://tammyscraftemporium.blogspot.com/2009/11/1910-bernard-stoewer-treadle.html. I suspect that the badged-name may have been removed deliberately during WWII because the surrounding decals are undamaged. The first two photos here are before shots, and they make her look better than she did.

Restoring this machine was challenging to say the least — some parts were broken and the finish was quite damaged. If this machine had a wooden lid, I’m afraid it’s missing too. Unlike other Stoewer bases, this one doesn’t have brackets to support a lid, so maybe it’s not missing? Regardless, it’s evident that the machine spent several decades, if not the the last century, exposed to the elements. Perhaps as a result, the clear-coat was completely shot, though the decals were mostly intact.

To the previous owners’s credit, the machine was well oiled, but that oil also acted like a magnet for dust and grime. She did turn, but she couldn’t make a single stitch and I don’t collect expensive doorstops. I cleaned her as gently as I could (sewing machine oil and soft rags!), but the only thing holding on to the decals was grime … and the grime had to go.

After an overall cosmetic cleaning, I began breaking her down. Where possible, I removed the inner workings and cleaned them with very fine #0000 steel wool and rubbing alcohol. Um, and a metal pick because the grime was stubborn. The rest of the inner workings were cleaned in place using the same method, but I was super careful not to get the rubbing alcohol on the painted parts of the machine. Then I flushed all the oil points with Blue Creeper, and gave her a nice drink of sewing machine oil. The shiny bits were polished with my Dremel and Mother’s Mag & Aluminum polish. The wooden base was restored with Howard’s Restore-A-Finish, and then a generous amount of Howard’s Feed-N-Wax. Hm, that’s like one paragraph of explanation for 140 hours of work! I had mechanic’s hands for weeks!

I had to leave my comfort zone quite a few times on this restoration, including:

  • taking apart the tension assembly
  • repairing/reshaping the tension spring
  • removing the entire presser foot assembly
  • removing and disassembling the hand-crank
  • removing the spring from the shuttle bobbin
  • fabricating new parts (more on that in a minute).

Even when I’m armed with service or adjuster’s manuals I’m wary of those tasks… but um, guys, there’s no adjuster’s manual for this machine. Hell, I didn’t even have a user manual (I do now, please email me if you’re in need!). I used manuals for the Singer 27/28 and Singer 127/128 for reference, but, I digress. My overall tactic was pretty simple: I took a hundred million photos as I went along, and somehow I managed to put things back together correctly. I am not going to ugly-up the place with working photos, but if you’re in need of WIP photos please send me an email!

Thanks to my set of Chapman screwdrivers, I was able to prevent further damage to the screw heads, many of which were partially stripped. PHEW. I don’t know about you, but I never want to track down a replacement screw for something that was machined in Germany over one hundred years ago.

Once everything was cleaned and oiled, I turned my attention to the missing thread guide on the face plate. I bent a cotter pin to match the shape of the missing guide, and used a high heat glue gun to attach it to the backside of the face plate. I was so afraid that the repair would be an eyesore, but it looks fine. You really can’t tell from the front, and it isn’t half bad from the back either.

After two months on the work bench she’s fully restored and in full working order. My daughter is learning to sew and becoming increasingly independent on this machine. She’s working on some improvised quilt squares and it’s just amazing to see her work through the piecing on her own. I’ve also used the machine myself for making my niece a leather purse — I put a low-shank teflon foot on and away she went! The top-stitching really was lovely… until I couldn’t fit multiple layers under the presser foot ūüôā

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Overall, I’m thrilled with the functionality of this machine and her place in history. It is clear that this machine was heavily used and central to someone’s livelihood, but she wears it well. I do wish that I had been able to do better by her cosmetically. If I win the lottery, she might become a candidate for a custom paint job. Maybe she would enjoy her new lease on life in royal purple with silver decals?

 

The right tool for the job

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I treated myself to a set of #9600 screwdrivers from Chapman Manufacturing for my birthday, and I just have to take a moment to sing their praises. I should have purchased a set for myself ages ago! These tools are such an improvement over the enormous collection of screwdrivers I had amassed (read: stolen from the garage and squirreled away in the sewing room). But, before I go on, I’d like to add that these are all my own unbiased opinions. I don’t have any affiliation with this company, other than my new love-affair with their products ūüôā

What makes me so giddy about screwdrivers, you ask? Well, these bits are engineered to properly fill the screw slot. You can see a great visual of this difference on their website, here: http://chapmanmfg.com/pages/insert-bits. The bit shape means that 1) it transfers the force more effectively to the screw 2) less force is necessary to turn the screw and 3) it is less likely to damage the screw head. Those three things are so so important to vintage machine restoration, but I think any sewist could benefit from them. So many of my VSMs came to me with damaged screws — heck even my modern machines’ show some damage from repeated assault with a traditional screw driver.

When my set arrived I jumped for joy because, well, *pink.* But then I got down to business and put it to the test. There is one machine, a little Singer 20 clone by GRAIN, that I have been working on for over a year. It has remained frozen despite my best attempts with penetrating oil and a hairdryer… until now. I combined the right bit + the “midget ratchet” and pop! I was able to remove the stubborn screws with ease, and without damaging the irreplaceable screws. From there I was able to give it the rough cleaning it so desperately needed. I’m happy to report that the machine is turning freely now, and awaiting her cosmetic spa-day.

And the icing on top? Chapman is a woman-owned company, and their tools are American Made from American Made materials. They’ve won multiple Green Circle Awards from the DEP. Their grounds are even a NFW certified wildlife habitat. And there are cats and the cutest dog in the shop! That’s a lot of icing in my book ūüôā

And if you’ve read this far, thank you for bearing with me through my dork fit. Every once in awhile you come across a tool that revolutionizes things, and they deserve to be cheered on. And if you’re interested in purchasing your own set, I found mine here: http://chapmanmfg.com/collections/slotted-flathead-sets/products/9600-starter-slotted-bit-set.

Happy sewing (and tinkering)!

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Hello blog land!

So I had another unplanned blogging hiatus. Whoops. I assure you that I’m still sewing up a storm. If you miss my ramblings, please come join me on instagram! I’m so much better about sticking photos up there!

Last night I sat down to sew on my Brother Select-o-matic, and I was reminded how much I adore this machine. Every time I use it I fall more in love with it. It is smooth, consistent and reliable — every damn time. It doesn’t throw fits. And it makes the most charming and satisfying purr when its running. Seriously, it’s my sewing nirvana. I also get a fair number of emails about this gem of a machine, so I think it’s time for a little update.

The most common question I get about this machine is “hey, how can I take the darn top off?” Such a good question. The machine is sort of a puzzle box, so let’s start with a diagram:

Diagram
Now the trick:

  1. Set the Indexer Knob to zero (do this by turning and holding the Switch Over Knob to the right while you manipulate the Indexer Knob)
  2. I also think it helps to put the Stitch Selector Knob at #1, but perhaps I’m superstitious.
  3. Once those knobs are set, the Indexer Knob will release itself so it can be removed
  4. Twist the top of the Indexer Knob while holding the bottom/flatter part still. It should screw right off.
  5. Now unscrew the top screws which are holding the top on. It should look something like the photo to the right. –>
  6. Now lift the top up. How about that?! Now you can clean the cams and make everything spiffy and new! And here’s a sneak-peak at what you’ll find under the hood…

Next most common question: where can I find replacement parts? Good news here, folks. This machine was based on the patents for a Singer 15 so it’s super easy to find reproduction parts. Happy little list with links below:¬†

And the best part about publishing my dorkiness for all to see? Readers are kind enough to send me photos of their machines! Thank you for sending your photos and letting me share them!

This is Lindsey’s beautiful Brother Select-o-matic HZ3-B1 in beige/pink and gunmetal gray.¬† ¬†

Allison from https://www.allisondillard.com/ shared these photos of her Riviera branded machine:

   

If you have a photo you’d like to add, please send me an email or post a comment. I’d love to share more of these beauties!

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Squee!¬†I have so many projects that I’m excited to be working on, and it’s causing me to bounce back and forth between things (read: not making good headway anywhere!). It’s not the most efficient way to work, but I’m having too much fun to care.

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After launching my Etsy Shop, I decided to¬†get back to some neglected projects. Project #1? A long overdue baby quilt for my friend’s daughter. I’m so embarrassed that this “welcome to the world” gift is quickly turning into a “Happy Birthday” present. I designed this herrringbone pattern¬†to use up ¬†the scraps from my partial lonestar burst¬†quilt, though it’s taken a lot longer than planned. ¬†In hopes of making some headway,¬†I brought this project¬†to MamaPeaches’ house last weekend for a mama play date. Best.time.ever.¬†Fabulous friends + simple piecing + featherweight + her gorgeous sewing cave is pretty much my new definition of heaven.

This baby quilt will (hopefully!) be my first quilt that is done entirely on vintage machines — so far all the piecing has been completed on my Featherweight or¬†on my fabulous vintage Brother. I just adore the vintage machines and find myself choosing them over my big Janome more and more. ¬†¬†

Economy Blocks WIP, by Stitchified

I’ve also been working on a layout for my Economy Blocks.¬†This project was started during a trying time, and I added a block to it (almost!) every day throughout the ordeal. Just looking at the blocks is a powerful reminder of both me and my family’s journey over the last two years. I just need to bring myself to add another 100 blocks so that it’s queen size!

And lastly, I started restoring this amazing White Vibrating Shuttle III treadle machine that my stepmother picked up for me last summer.

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At just $5, this thing was a total steal, but it’s been my most difficult restoration¬†yet. It was missing the¬†vibrating shuttle and bobbin, and tracking down replacements has taken months of dedicated internet sleuthing. I was able to find a shuttle stamped “White” on Etsy that looked like the drawings of VSIII shuttles, and took a chance — thankfully¬†it fits perfectly. Then, after spending hours (and hours!) looking at photos on eBay, I snagged a single White long bobbin. (Dorky restoration note: Unlike Singer long bobbins, White long bobbins have a hollow core, which makes them distinct enough to pick out of¬†a lineup of say, a hundred ebay listings.)

Finding the missing parts gave me the push I needed to start cleaning the machine. I’m pretty sure she was sitting in a barn for a significant portion of the last 125 years¬†—¬†there was a lot of straw hidden in the cabinet and the whole thing is FILTHY. I’ve only just begun to remove the grime, but I’m making good progress. It’s so gratifying to shine her up.

I put together a little demo of the process, but first a quick before picture of the area I was working on:

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And a super gratifying video showing the grime coming off (not shown the 10 minutes I scrubbed the area with Qtips!):

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And a shot of what I’ve done so far on the backside:

White VS((( restoration, by Stitchified

Yeaaah, I still have a long way to go. And¬†I still need to tackle her moving parts… and then there’s the cabinet. Oh, the sad dried out cabinet. She’s been around for around 120 years (last patent date is 1890!), so I figure she can wait a few more months for a proper restoration job. ūüôā

Oh, and for those interested, I do have a few new additions in the works for the¬†Etsy shop. ¬†I’ll announce the postings on IG if you want to follow me there.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced!¬† Eek, I didn’t realize that WIP Wednesday is on a two month break. Linking up with some new link parties and looking forward to visiting some new friends and their blogs!

 

and Handmade Tuesdays

The herd is growing again!

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Brother select o matic, restored by Stitchified

I love vintage sewing machines. Their all metal construction, brilliant engineering, and retro lines make me swoon. I¬†wish I could bring home every vintage machine I come across, but I’m pretty much at capacity over here. So I’ve tried to be selective and hold out for the perfect vintage zigzag machine.¬†And that is why I pretty much imploded when I came across a craigslist ad for this beauty — my dream vintage zigzag machine, a Brother Super Select-o-matic or Brother HZ3B3 Model 100. It took a week to coordinate the sale, but it was so worth it. Restoring it took a couple of weeks, but I’m so in love with her now that she’s finished!

Before picture from craigslist ad

Before picture from the Craigslist ad. Such a dirty girl <3

The seller was an absolutely lovely woman. If we had had more time I could have spent hours talking to her! She explained that the machine had belonged to her late mother in law and hadn’t been used in years and years. Another fun fact? This beast is H-E-A-V-Y. In its solid 8 drawer cabinet, the machine easily weighs over 100 pounds. I’m sure my husband and I were quite the picture maneuvering this behemoth out of a second floor bedroom, but we succeeded.

Brother select o matic, restored by Stitchified

Action shot: cabinet restoration

I spent two weeks restoring the cabinet, which was definitely showing its age. It took over a dozen coats of Tung Oil and a lot of elbow grease, but it looks a million times better. It is still a little weathered looking, but I love it. It’s the perfect vintage piece to ground an otherwise bright space.

Brother select o matic, restored by Stitchified

The machine itself was really very clean inside, but the outside? Not so much. There was a lot of odd yellow staining. And.it.was.stubbon. ¬†Given its age, I assume that it was nicotine staining? I used a lot of Qtips and barkeeper’s friend to remove the stains and polish the chrome. Unfortunately, I took off a little paint getting rid of the staining. I feel pretty badly about that, but I couldn’t leave it as it was either.

Originally, it had been wired with a knee control, but the lever was very squeaky and the cords felt brittle. So, I picked up a new cord block and switched over to a shiny new foot peddle. Once the machine was thoroughly cleaned I oiled it well — it’s been purring like a kitten ever since.

This machine is seriously fun stuff. It looks like an old vintage car¬†with its powder blue paint job and shiny chrome knobs. But what really puts it over the top is the red “Switch Over Knob” which spins as it does the embroidery stitches. Totally gratuitous and squeal worthy! I’m adding a video because it really is too cool not to share.

A video posted by Jen (@stitchified) on

But she isn’t all looks, no, no. This baby sports a 1.2 amp motor — that’s twice as strong as my Janome Horizon. When you put the pedal to the metal, there is a slight but noticeable¬†breeze — it seriously feels like it might take off and I love it! It goes through leather, vinyl, and canvas like butter. She uses a standard class 15 bobbin, so finding replacement parts (if I ever need them!) will be easy. I also love the way her gib pops open with a “snap-out race hook,” no screwdriver needed. It makes removing stray threads a snap (literally!), instead of a nightmare (ahem, I’m looking at you little Featherweight). I can’t wait to make bags on her! Or you know, maybe sailboat sails. Just because I can.

Linking up with Finish it Up Friday!

Pop out race hook

Genius engineering at work: Snap out race hook on the Brother Super Select-o-matic

As a PSA, I’m going to include some more nitty gritty info about this machine. There is very little info about this model on the internet, and I couldn’t find a manual anywhere online. The¬†manufacturer didn’t even have a manual¬†for this¬†model, though they did provide a manual for an earlier model. So, feel free to stop reading here, though you’re welcome to dork out with me below ūüôā

******

This machine is a “Brother Super Select-O-Matic” aka “Brother HZ3B3 Model 100,” and was manufactured by Brother in Japan, likely in the 1960s. An earlier version of this machine, “the Select-o-Matic” had a differently shaped Stitch Width Window which was¬†located further to the left. A later version, the “Brother 210” is also similar, but replaced the Stitch Regulator¬†with a reverse button, did away with the separate Stitch Selector Knob, and flipped the bobbin on to the horizontal axis. There is a great blog post about the 210 (and related machines) by Brooke at Custom Style here.

Like other Japanese made machines of the time, these machines were sold as badged machines in the US. That is, the seller’s brand was added on top of or in addition to “Brother” once the machines arrived stateside. As a result, this machine and other “Select-o-matic” models were sold under dozens of brands including Atlas, Wizard, and Coronado just to name a few. Crazy, huh?

As you might imagine, badged machines are notoriously difficult to track. They all have different model names, and even the manufacturer didn’t keep track of serial numbers or production years. I was very fortunate to find the original manual and warranty card in one of the cabinet drawers. I am uploading a copy of the manual (here: Brother Super Select-o-Matic Manual)¬†and created a little diagram below to help explain how this machine works. I also found a Ruffler in the accessories box,¬†complete with instructions.¬†Here’s a copy of the instructions for that, too:¬†Brother Ruffler Attachment – Manual.Diagram Brother Super Select-O-matic, by Stitchified

The machine has three¬†modes: automatic zigzag, semi-automatic, and manual zigzag. The modes are accessed by manipulating the Switch Over Knob (Pull out for automatic and semi-automatic zigzagging, push in for manual zigzagging). The automatic mode is¬†very familiar for modern sewists. In automatic¬†mode you select your settings, and then the machine sews a given stitch (straight or zigzag). But the semi-automatic and manual modes?¬†Whoa, baby. In those modes,¬†the user *manually* swings the Needle Position Knob¬†from left to right in timing with the Stitch Width Window to produce custom embroidery stitches. No, I’m not kidding you. It’s insane. ¬†To quote the manual in all of its vintage glory:

“The variety of zig-zag designs that can be made on this machine by simple manual manipulation is unlimited. It depends entirely on the creative ability of the operator and the skill acquired in timing the movement of [the Switch Over Knob] with the stitch width.”

Well, thank you 1960s for the condescension. I’m not ashamed to admit that this operator has¬†not acquired this skill. I’m seriously awful at it. Haha ūüôā

Alright, that’s all the info I have. If you read this far thank you for indulging¬†me and¬†my dork-out session!

Happy sewing!

 

Update June 2017. I’ve created an update with some FAQs here:¬†http://stitchified.com/2017/06/09/brother-select-o-matic-update-and-faqs/

 

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Casige Toy Sewing MachinesMy husband scored¬†a¬†pair of Casige toy sewing machines at the Brimfield Flea Market¬†this weekend. I am ecstatic! They date from the post WW2 era, and¬†are stamped “Made in Germany, British Zone.” Researching the pair has proven surprisingly difficult.¬†¬†Casige was an extremely prolific toy maker, with¬†over 80 models were made between 1902 – 1975. ¬†With so many models out there, it’s really difficult to track down exactly what I have here. I think the red one is probably a Model #1015, but I haven’t found a good match for the larger silver one. It’s going to make it tricky to find replacement needles!

They came to me absolutely caked in dirt. I’m no neat freak, but honestly they were too dirty to enter the house. I spared you all photos of that hot mess. Honestly, I thought the larger one was tan colored when it was fresh from the fair. Thankfully¬†a few sprays of Tuff Stuff¬†took care of the worst of the grime, and revealed a silver machine (not tan!). Though there’s still *plenty* of cleaning work to be done.

Silver Casige TSMI started taking the larger silver one apart, and let me tell you… it is rust city. I was able to loosen the¬†screws after a long soak in WD-40, but the one on the base plate is still stuck. The chrome pieces are soaking in vinegar¬†to take care of the rust. I haven’t used that technique before, but I have my fingers crossed! I’ve used WD-40 to clean the gunk in¬†the machine head, which has things moving more smoothly.

Casige Restoration WIPThe next question is whether to stick to restoring, or do a full repaint. I usually try to keep things original, but I think the finish on these is too far gone. Which begs the question… if I repaint, do I go crazy with a dark royal purple? Or play it cool with a more vintage appropriate powder blue or something? Hmmm… decisions! What do you folks think? Linking up with WIP Wednesday!

Restore TSM by Stitchified