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.