Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Seasonal Color Inspiration: Autumn

The first day of Fall. The cooler crisp days are upon us and the bright colors of summer are fading...wait not so fast. Autumn has a color inspiration all it's own. We can see it in the natural beauty around us.


Fall/Autumn is not a time of dull colors. You still have the reds and dark purple of blackberries, the lavender tones of Autumn Crocus, the vivid yellow of Tansy, the bold oranges of marigolds, even the leaves as they change go from green to lime green to yellow and shades or orange and red. There is the creamy tans of hops. There is the grey and brown of blown seed heads. The pure white tones of Snowberry.

Whenever you get stuck for color inspiration look at the nature that surrounds you. Mother nature usually mixes colors in a wonderfully pleasing manner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Singer 221 Hook Assembly: an important lesson

Several years ago I got this Singer Featherweight at a garage sale. Well, actually my mom did but it was gifted to me as it needed repairs. The major repair was the hook assembly needed to be replaced. It was missing it's hook as it had been broken. There is a correct position for the hook assembly in the Singer 221 and 222. If it is not in the correct position it could get broken and that may have been what happened to my machine. This is not a cheap part to replace as you will need to find an old one that has been removed from a donor machine. These seem to all run around $70 or so; as of 2011 when I bought my replacement.

Let's see what the correct positioning is supposed to be.

 Straight up noon. That little finger or hook at the top of the hook assembly moves around. It needs to be right between the two pieces of the throat plate. So think 12:00 (noon) on a clock.


What does an incorrect position look like?


It is simply anywhere other than noon. As that entire piece can move around it means your bobbin will not be properly engaged and your machine will not stitch. Also, as you can see in the image below that hook can swing around and slam into the throat plate from below. It can become damaged or broken.


So the lesson here is take the time to check the hook assembly position of machines you don't know. If you are shopping for one or have borrowed one or maybe you were just given one; take a few seconds and check. Double check the position on your own machine if you have had to remove the throat plate. A few seconds to check will save you money and tears.

If it is in the incorrect position loosen or remove the throat plate and move into the correct position with your fingers. It should move very easily. If it does not then you have some other issues going on and you may need to disassemble or replace the hook assembly.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Singer Featherweight Repaint: Yay the big day is here!

Let me start this post by saying it's done! Are you ready for the big color reveal? After three years of color indecision I went with....wait for it.....drum roll..... Pale Pink.

After the color paint was applied, and had dried overnight, the decals were applied according to the instructions. I thought these would be more difficult but they were super easy. I ordered the new decals from Keesew on eBay not only did this seller ship the decals out to me quickly but they sent a pdf file of instructions with pictures for applying them. After the decals were applied, 3 coats of clear coat went over everything. It was allowed to cure for 2 weeks before assembling. By the way, I went nontraditional and choose silver metallic decals instead of gold or black (black was used on the white machines).


 I started with oiling and greasing the machine according to Singer instructions. Make sure to use the correct sewing machine oil and grease lubricant. WD40 is not correct so don't even think of using it.
The first piece to go back in was the hook assembly for the bobbin. This part had to be replaced and I am going to tell it's tale in another blog post.


I took that time to clean up many of the pieces as they went on. I don't think anyone cleaned the upper thread tension since the late 1950's. Little tip of you are adjusting, removing and/or replacing the motor, wrap the column with fabric or cardboard otherwise a screwdriver may mar the finish. Other than the electric components there is no specific order to putting the parts on. Just work one section at a time.


The entire upper thread tension had to be reassembled. This looks overwhelming at first but it really isn't. I highly recommend that you reassemble it on the machine because the machine will act as a third hand. This youtube video on it is great as she really explains it nicely. While the machine is demonstrating on it not a featherweight the steps are still the same.



Now, my machine had a boo-boo. When it was being disassembled for painting, the upper tension bar guide broke. It not only broke, it shattered inside the part of the machine body that it fits into. That area had to be dremeled away as there was no way to drill out or remove the fragments. So the replacement is attached to the machine with JB Weld.


Next issue was the badges. Usually the badges on these machines were held on by brass rivets with bent over ends. Except for my machine which had a completely different style of rivet and they were steel. The badges had to be super glued into place. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I can fake it in with brass screw heads. I thought it looked more complete with the badges than without.


Then came the big moment. I admit I was terrified of this. I knew the motor ran, I knew the machine moved correctly but as it had been broken at the time of purchase I had no idea how it stitched or how good or bad the timing on it was. I threaded her up, put a new needle in and...nothing. Umm....I had the needle in backwards. Got the left and right thing mixed up. Took the needle out, put it back in correctly, checked to make sure the bobbin was in correctly in the case, and tried again. Success! terrible tensions but stitches nonetheless. I spent plenty of time adjusting both the upper and bobbin tensions. Don't be afraid of adjusting the bobbin tension. She runs beautifully, stitches are fantastic.


This is where I have to thank my Dad. He did all the painting, did a lot of the disassemble/reassemble, and guided me through all the cleaning and prepping. Could I have done this without out him? Maybe but it wouldn't have looked as nice and I'd probably be sitting in a corner right now crying.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Decoupaged and Altered Singer Featherweight Case

Before: in fairly rough condition
The case for my Singer Featherweight was also in some poor condition. One of the latches needed to be replaced. I decided to give my case a spiffy new look by decoupaging it. I used a variety of vintage pattern pieces, instructions, pages from a 1960's era book titled Sewing Made Easy, and sewing pattern pages from Workbasket. You can find things like this at yard sales, garage sales, rummage sales, library book sales, ebay and etsy.

To start I clipped away any loose material on the case. I then sanded the entire exterior with sandpaper. The goal was the scuff up the surface. I wiped it down with a damp rag and let it air dry. I then sealed all the edges and any areas where the original material was remove with a bit of mod podge. To keep the black surface from coming through my paper I painted the exterior with a white paint. This paint was quite cheap and is actually called "economy paint". I didn't care about the painted end results as I knew it would be covered with paper.


ready to decoupage
 The next day I decoupaged. I used mod podge with a matte finish to glue on and go over all my paper bits. I tore the pages up, added pattern tissue in a pleasing manner. If I were to do this again I'm start by covering more the case with the big pieces of sewing patterns before adding my pages. What is cool is if you place a pattern over a page usually the words below will show through the pattern. The tissue paper pattern pieces will wrinkle and are delicate to work with. Every so often I'd take a break and place it outside to air dry as it was a warm day when I was working on this. I kept adding bits and layers until I had covered the surface in a pleasing manner. There is not right or wrong with this.

decoupaging: lots of layers


drying after a long day of gluing papers on to the surface

As some of my pieces went over the hinge area I had to use a razor blade to cut it open again. I had allowed it to dry. I think it would have been easier to do this when the papers were wet. After that I placed the case in a warm dry area with the lid open to dry

adding the final finish coats


My last step was to coat the entire case with Polycrylic in a satin finish. I used 3 light layers carefully brushed on. Some people will actually do more layers and sand some down every so often until they get a smooth surface. I didn't think that would really matter.


Now it is ready for use. I really like how it turned out.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dressing For Success?

I've been pondering this lately; does how one dress everyday play a role in how they feel about themselves and their level of confidence? Do you take yourself more seriously when you are dressed the part?
I work from home so my attire tends to be very casual. I draw the line at working in my PJs. I wear mostly jeans and tee shirts. Lately I have been wondering if I shouldn't put more effort into dressing and my own personal style. Sure not too many people will see me on a given day. I don't have to be terrifically fancy just maybe step things up a notch. I'm wondering if I would be more work and business minded if I was dressing the part of small business owner.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Stripping Down: Singer Featherweight Repaint

It's not near as sexy as it sounds. In fact it's messy and tedious work. Getting the machine prepped for paint actually took longer than the paint itself.
The first steps was to remove all the parts that were removable without going crazy. I highly recommend the book The Featherweight 221 and I. It does have an entire section on replacing the decals and repainting you machine. The motor, the light, upper tension, the thread guides, and so on. It all has to come off. I went through a lot of ziploc bags. Google and eBay were my friends at different points because sadly the upper tension bar guide broke apart as in literally fell apart. The badges on this machine were particularly annoying to remove. Usually they were just held on by brass rivets with bent over ends but not mine. These required the use of a dremel from the top to grind off the head of the rivet.
Once everything is off that hard part really sets it. The shellac finish has to be removed. This is time consuming, messy, and not exactly pleasant. Steel wool, wet/dry sandpaper and a some chemicals have to be employed. Old shellac is either easy to remove or in my case it went gummy and took forever to remove. As I went little areas of pitting were discovered. This machine is made from aluminum and aluminum can corrode or react with the other metals. Areas, where the pitting was quite deep, were treated with bondo. Yes, bondo, just like what they use on cars. As I worked on my machine certain oddities appeared that made me wonder if someone hadn't repainted it at another time in it's life.

sanded and ready for masking

Once cleaned it had to be prepped for primer and paint. The things that could not be removed were carefully taped off. Other areas had to be stuffed with paper. Toothpicks, the ends of matchsticks and wads of paper towel were used to keep screw and oil holes open while others were carefully taped over.

primer coated. It got two coats of primer.

All the pieces that needed paint were painted with quality automotive primer. In this case it was a light colored primer because my final paint color is a light color. I chose to repaint this machine using quality automotive paint in spray cans. The color was mixed for me by my local automotive paint store. One can is more than enough for a sewing machine. I purchased the primer and clear coat recommended to me by the store.
You may be wondering about the cardboard box. Well that was a homemade paint booth for painting the machine. It was made out of a large cardboard box, tape, an air filter for a furnace, and a box fan. It didn't help with the odor but it helped a great deal with over spray and the stuff you don't want to be breathing in.
After the primer comes paint, decals and clear coat. Than the final assembly.

This article is not a how to on how to repaint your machine. If you choose to repaint you machine you do so at your own risk.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mid-Century Modern Chair Makeover Part 3

It's now come to the big day on my chair makeover project. Upholstery. It's a big day and long one. There are plenty of blog, books, and how to articles out there for upholstery. I'm only going to give you an overview of what I did along with a few tips. My mom helped me with this part as she has upholstery experience.


This first task was to redo the seat of this chair as it was lacking it's original support. I used jute webbing. There is a tool specifically for helping to pull the jute taunt. I didn't want to spend the money on one so I used a scrap 2 by 4 and applied the same principle at the special tool. You will use a lot of upholstery tacks so make sure you buy more than what you think you will need.



I covered the jute with 1 inch of foam and a thick polyester batting. The foam was cut cover the seat only. the batting is bigger and will wrap around the frame.


This chair has a loose cushion. I used 3 inch foam wrapped in batting. I used perle cotton thread to whip stitch the seams of the batting.


Okay here is something major important. You do not want the cover for your upholstery to be loose. I see this on design shows all the time. You want it to fit very, very snug. I marked my fabric with the shape of my foam. I then added a 1/2 inch to 5/8 inch seam allowance. That's it. Over time the foam and batting with compress and a wrinkled cushion is unattractive.


This is snug as you see here it doesn't seem like my side will fit but trust me it will look great.


I wrapped my cushion with a plastic garbage bag. This make it easier to put it in the snug fitting cover. I removed the plastic bag before stitching the seam closed.


The upholstery on the chair itself was pulled tight. You work opposite sides. Front the back, left then right. Depending on the shape of the item you may have to work in pleats in strategic places. Cut away excess fabric in small amounts. you can't place it back but you can remove more if you need to.
The green fabric was faded and not fit for another project so i used it for my dust cover.

My tips:
  1. coffee, soda, and snacks
  2. find someone to help you. Hopefully someone who has done upholstery or sewing work before. It's great if you can have an extra set of hands to help hold the fabric.
  3. read books or blogs to know the basic process of what you need to do
  4. patience
  5. tacks, lots and lots of upholstery tacks
  6. a day when you feel confident and not overly stressed. You might have some frustrations along the way. 

Finally for the part you have been waiting for the final results.



Part 1: The chair before and prep
Part 1.5: paint and upholstery selections
Part 2: painting

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Singer Featherweight Repaint Project

Meet my next big project. It is the repaint on a Singer 221 Featherweight. According to the serial number this particular machine was made in 1953. I purchased it at a garage sale several years ago. It is fully functional aside from a few minor repairs. The biggest issue is the finish of this machine. It's original finish is in sad shape and it's lost most of it's decals. It needs a makeover. I had already removed some parts in order to access areas that required repairs.


The Singer Featherweight was introduced in 1933 at the World's Fair. In was revolutionary with it's compact light design. It only weighed 11 pounds so it is easily portable. It is believed that Singer sold 3 to 3.5 million of these machines during production. They are model 221 and 222k The 222k was made at the Kilbowie factory in Scotland. Most of them are black like my machine but white was made for a few years and there are even rumors of a few mint green ones having been made in Scotland. These are a popular machine even today. They may only do a straight stitch but they do it extremely well.
My plan is to take this machine partially apart, clean/sand it, and repaint it. Apply new decals. Since I am repainting it's getting a new color.

Recommended reading: "The Featherweight 221 and I" by Dave McCallum 
That is a great book for regular maintenance and beyond for the Singer Featherweight. Many of the principles can be applied to other all metal vintage sewing machines.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Mid-Century Modern Chair Makeover Part 2

After I sanded and cleaned up the chair; I had to paint it.


 I started with a coat of primer. I choose to only primer the bigger areas and to leave the wicker areas alone. For one thing it's difficult to paint the wicker and it's rougher texture than the other wooden areas of the chair. This is after two coats of primer.


It took 3 light coats of the colored paint to get a nice even coat. The wicker areas still look uneven but that has something to do with the angle of light. I'm not worrying about it.
The next step is upholstery.

Part 1: The chair before and prep
Part 1.5: paint and upholstery selections

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mid-Century Modern Chair Makeover part 1.5

So why part 1.5? Well it is because I haven't actually made much headway in the makeover other than I selected fabric and paint.

I started out thinking I would go in one direction with the fabric and paint. Here is an example of what I was originally going to do.

Dark Charcoal Grey or Black Paint, Then I had two fabrics in mind.
Top: HGTV Home - Pop Art in Onyx
Bottom: Waverly Kaleidoscope in Tuxedo
Both of these fabrics were available at my local Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts but you can find them through some online fabric retailers as well.

I went to look at fabric first and it was a good thing I did. While those two fabrics were nice they just were not "it". I wandered through all the upholstery and home decorator fabrics and I ended up getting this fabric instead.

This is Gloria Prism by Richloom from their Platinum Collection. The fabric is a bit lighter weight than what I was originally wanting. I think it's more for drapery or light upholstered items. So I am thinking I will back it with a cheap black cotton fabric. I love the bright, fun flowers on it and all the colors. The chair isn't really going to be used all the time.

Then I had to get my paint. I was still thinking charcoal grey. I went to Lowes which had a really pitiful spray paint section. Not a single dark grey to be seen except as a primer. I really didn't want it to be that matte. Then I went to Home Depot. They had a better spray paint section with a big empty spot for Dark Grey. Although, they did have one called Granite which I considered but then I spotted this one.


Rust-oleum Painter's Touch in Satin Aubergine. It's the right finish, a satin. The pretty purple tone is in the fabric. It's a nice fun color.

So this chair is not going to look like how I originally envisioned...it's going to be better!

Click here to read part 1 and see the before pictures of the chair

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mid-Century Modern Chair Makeover part 1

Welcome to part one of a few part series on the make-over of this mid-century modern chair. The subject is a wicker chair upholstered in orange upholstery. As you can see it's seen many a better day...err...decade. The plan is to transform this chair into something fun by giving it new paint and upholstery.

 I got this chair, for free, some time in say 2007 or 2008 when the instructors for my college Interior Design program were decluttering. No one else wanted it so I brought it home and it's been in storage since that time. It wasn't in good shape when I got it but it has potential. You just have to see beyond the grime, dust and torn stained upholstery.


There is one flaw that may need more help and that is the fact the the seat is dipped in the center. Only when I remove the upholstery will I find out the cause of this. Other than cosmetic issues, of upholstery and the seat, this chair is in rather good structural condition.
The overall sturdiness is where you really need to focus if you are going to work on vintage furniture. If you are planning to redo the upholstery then it doesn't matter it is is torn and stained. It doesn't matter if the cushions are flat or brittle. All that can be replaced. It harder to fix broken structural parts.

 So there is the chair. For day one my goal is to get as much of the upholstery off as possible and hopefully get it prepped for painting.

 I started with what I thought would be simple; removing the pillow head rest. I figure that the buttons would just pop off after all they should have been just put on with thread. I was wrong. Turned out the buttons were actually a two part system similar to how jeans buttons go together. I found some wire snips in the garage and it took some trying but I eventually snapped through the metal prongs. The next step was to begin the process of removing the upholstery.

The black dust cloth is usually fragile on old furniture so it's easily pulled off. Once I did that I found out why the seat had a dip in it. I had honestly been expecting to see broken jute webbing here but instead this webbing may have at one time been elastic or rubber. Time was not it's friend, it had become dry, brittle and permanently deformed.

 The removing the upholstery is the biggest task and the most tedious. In fact this is where most people give up. This is where you have to remove all the staples and upholstery tacks holding the fabric in place. My project is relatively small but it still took several hours. There are upholstery tack removers that you can buy for less than $5 at places like Jo-Ann fabrics. I didn't have one and really didn't want to go up there on a Sunday afternoon so I made due with a screw driver, a hammer, and some pliers. This is a messy job and one that can lead to minor injuries if you are not watching. I carefully and methodically removed all the tacks and staples. A few broke off and in those cases I knocked them down into the wood frame. I started to think the original upholsterer, of this chair, got paid by the tack or staple. If 3 would work he must have used 8 or more. The yellow dust was thankfully not from the frame but from brittle foam padding.

After I got it all removed and dusted off I discovered that this chair was extremely well made. Notice the blocks in the corners. These have been carefully fitted at each of the corners and they are actually screwed into place.

My last step of the day was to give the wood frame a quick once over with some sand paper and a wash with Trisodium phosphate (TSP). I choose TSP because it's a good general cleaner to use before painting. It cuts through the grease and oils that hands leave behind on furniture.

Now, I just need to select a fabric for my upholstery, a paint color of the frame, and replace all the webbing, foam and batting. I'm thinking of leaving off the head rest pillow. The holes in the wicker for the buttons are pretty small and I don't think the pillow is all that useful.

click here to see part 1.5 : paint and fabric selections

Monday, July 21, 2014

An Introduction

So this is the first post for my new blog. How do you even start these things without feeling a bit silly?
My name is Joanna and I run my own handmade business, Rain Girl Designs. This blog is not going to be a free for all promo spam fest for my business instead I want to share the things I enjoy and feel passionate about. I have some great DIY projects coming up like: making over a vintage chair, repainting a Singer Featherweight sewing machine, and a few sewing projects that any beginner might feel comfortable trying. I, also, want to share with you my love of vintage sewing machines and explain why someone may want to consider an older machine instead of something new and computerized.  I have started sewing my own clothing so I plan to have some pattern reviews on commercial clothing patterns. Then finally, I hope to have some etsy shop features. I am a big believer in small business and promoting of small businesses so I really want to take some time to feature some etsy sellers.
I hope you stop back by again.