Archive

Frustration and Disappointment

November 26, 2014 - 1:51 pm

I do not have sewing to share today. Hit another road block with my baby blue machine head. I will not detail the process of discovery because I need to move on, but suffice to say parts were missing and have been ordered. Photos and brief summary:

The faceplate and tension assembly on the left is the Singer 15-90. The one on the right is the clone. Notice anything missing?

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How about now?

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Here— I’ll make it easy. Top row is the Singer, bottom is the clone:

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So, they look like the same size and shape, don’t they? I should be able to swap parts and get a working set? Nope.

See differences here? Singer parts left and top, clone bottom and right.

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also here; Singer left, clone right. See the notch on the mount for the tension assembly? Also the different thread path? The clone threads left to right, and the Singer right to left. So I can’t do a simple swap of the entire plate and tension assembly. And the notch means I can’t mount the Singer tension assembly on the clone, either. 

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So that was my evening last night and morning. That and researching VAT. But I have a shoulder kitten, so it’s all ok:

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I’m going to go listen to an audio book and spin for an hour, then commence cooking for a feast. Hope your day is proceeding with less frustration!

Plans and Obstacles

November 24, 2014 - 6:17 pm

This morning I woke up with a Plan.

Yesterday morning I finally took the time to create some quilt sandwiches to practice free motion quilting with. I wanted something to work on that was just for practice, so I found high quality $3 king sized cotton sheets at Goodwill, one dark green and one white,  some inexpensive poly-cotton batting, and a can of spray adhesive. I tore the fabric down to 12×24” rectangles, which seemed like a pleasant size to work with, glued up some sandwiches, and set them on my free motion quilting table. 

This morning I got up, did some necessary paper work and a bit of clean-up after my son’s birthday party weekend, and then sat down at the machine. This is my free motion quilting set-up:

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It’s a Singer 15-90 that was sold with an electric motor, but I removed that and put the machine on a treadle base. I have festooned it with two totems: Rafiki for patience and Zen: 

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And Figment for creativity and whimsy: 

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They keep me smiling when I’m quilting, which can be quite a task. Rafiki was given to me by an engineer I worked with at a particularly tough contract many years ago, and Figment & I go way back. He’s always been one of my favorite Disney characters, and David is also fond of him. One of the first times we video-chatted we noticed that I was drinking from a Figment mug and he had a dilapidated stuffed Figment on a shelf that was in frame. I’ve never seen the Lion King and Figment only appears in the ride at Epcot, so I only feel a little bit squeamish that they’re both Disney “properties.” In my world they have important personal significance. Anyway.

The machine was not making consistent stitches. It would sew a few and then skip a few. Feh. This is not the experience I was hoping for.

I changed out the needle and re-threaded the machine. No joy.

I pulled up my pdf of the manual to make SURE I was installing the needle correctly (flat to the left, thread right to left). I was.

opened everything up looking for lint. There was a little, but it was pretty much clean. Put it back together, and it still skipped.

Perhaps it was the quilt sandwich. I wanted to experiment with a double layer of batting, which I haven’t used previously, so that’s what was set-up. Pulled out a scrap of the cotton sheeting, but no change.

Perhaps it was not happy with the poly thread. Switched to Aurafil. No joy.

Bleargh. I had re-timed and adjusted this machine in the spring, after it was abused at MakerFaire. Perhaps I hadn’t tightened everything down correctly and something had slipped? Got out the feeler gauges and confirmed that the bobbin area spacings were perfect. The timing marks were also lined up correctly; the needle and hook were engaging perfectly as far as I could tell. No changes were made. 

I listlessly re-threaded and turned the hand wheel watching it make stitches. Put the machine back down into the treadle, got out my fabric, and stitch stitch skip. stitch stitch stitch stitch skip skip stitch. Feh.

I noticed there was some binding at one point in the cycle, and a bit of investigating showed me the finger guard I had installed was interfering with the needle clamp just enough to provide some resistance. It was binding in a way that shifted the needle ever so slightly away from the hook. Took that off, hopefully re-threaded and tried again, same behavior.

By now I was feeling more or less awful. The 15 is one of the simplest machines out there. I’ve put several back in service. Not being able to fix it was really making me feel incompetent. What was wrong with me?

Tried again with another new needle. Same thing. I did notice the thread was getting slightly shredded when it stopped making stitches, and also there was a change in the sound from the bobbin race. 

Tipped the machine up:

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pulled apart the whole bobbin race assembly again, cleaned and inspected the parts:

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and reassembled it. Started trying to make stitches, and the behavior hadn’t changed.

Tried turning the hand wheel and watching the thread move with the bobbin and without. Inspected all the linkages on the underside, and they were all perfect.

Removed the feed dogs and tightened the feed dog lift screw back down. No change. 

I was listening to the Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer while working on the machine, and I was almost in tears when she started talking about “the Fraud Police,” which is her name for imposter syndrome. Here I am starting a business teaching people to sew and to fix up these old machines and I can’t get a fucking 15-90 to sew. I am such a fraud. What the hell am I thinking?

It didn’t help that today was the day I had scheduled to do a portfolio review on my retirement plan, and had dealt with the young advisor’s condescension and disdain as we talked about what I’m doing with my life. Never mind that he’s looking at a healthy fund balance, we both knew I couldn’t retire on it. I don’t intend to, by the way. I’m starting this business with the intent of creating a residual income and working at it for the rest of my life. This is a vocation, not a job. But still. To your average financial planner this sounds just plain weird. 

So I started just watching the hook move the thread. Over and over and over.

And then it happened— it caught on something. I carefully inspected and saw it was getting stuck in a gap behind the “shuttle race back.” right here: 

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I removed the part again, for probably the thirtieth time today, and inspected it minutely. And then I saw it:

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Here’s another picture: 

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It’s the teeniest, tiniest little chip off the tip of the race back. Who knows how it happened, or when? The machine has been fussy since MakerFaire (hence the rebuild and re-timing) so my guess is that was when it was damaged, but I’ve done quite a bit of free motion work since with no trouble. So I don’t know. But it’s not working now, and I figured out why.

I feel kind of wrung out, but no longer like I’m a fraud doomed to fail at my life’s work. I can do this. Really. Persistence, attention to detail, and more persistence. I have the tools and the knowledge. I just need to get things moving forward and stitch by stitch I can make it happen.

I’m swapping out the machine head for a baby blue Japanese clone after I post this blog entry:

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Hopefully tomorrow I will have some new free motion quilting to share. 🙂

Kenmore 158-540

November 17, 2014 - 2:32 pm

Today I’ve got so many things to talk about.

I’m excited about Curls and want to show off Jasper McTavish and the spinning I’m doing, but I haven’t gotten good pics yet, so I’ll settle for a teaser from The Artful Ewe, a favorite fiber store we visited this weekend:

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I finished up the Hex quilt top section, and cleaned up the living room. Again, here’s a teaser:

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I still need to figure out how to work this into a full or queen sized bed quilt.

I could talk about the tree we had taken out this morning, but I think that’s mostly just a story in pictures.

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So I’m going to talk about my Kenmore 158-540.

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I haven’t reworked this machine yet, nor named it, but it’s high on the list of machines to get fixed up. It came with all the gee-gaws:

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And I have it in a lovely cabinet (please ignore the tile stuff and the new toilet staged for the bathroom remodel):

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The cabinet has an inkwell:

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See, it fits here:

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And the next drawer down has spool pins and a pincushion:

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It also came with a knee lever, which I haven’t ever used:

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I haven’t cleaned it yet, but it was nearly spotless:

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It was missing its bobbin case and spool pins, but I found spares while I had it out. 

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I love the lavender and purple bits.

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and its antennae:

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It’s biggest problem is the electrics. The plug was cracked. I glued it up:

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And then I found a replacement on ebay:

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The wiring looks ok, but I’ll give it a hard once-over when I’m putting it together:

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It’s a JA-4 casting:

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Or possibly a J-C16. It has both.

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And takes cams, of which I have a full set:

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But for now it’s put away in the cabinet, waiting for the studio to be put together:

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Cleaning and Restoring Charlotte “the Free”

January 22, 2014 - 2:38 pm

I wish I had gotten “before” pictures of Charlotte, the “Free Sewing Machine Co” treadle powered machine I picked up a couple weeks ago. This is about the best I have: 

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Her lines are lovely and the stencils are very pretty, but hidden beneath a century of grime and corrosion. Her Japanned finish was matte, and her brightwork was so corroded I couldn’t tell if it had been brass or chrome. 

I thought to get pics of the back side before cleaning it, and took photos of the whole process. So here are the before shots of the back:

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Closer, look at the grime around the screws and oil ports: 

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Even closer: 

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Ew. 

I started with the recommended method of rubbing with lubricating oil, but that wasn’t really getting very far. It removed some of the dirt, but was doing nothing to get through the grime or oxidization.

I decided I could find a polish for the brightwork at least, and after consulting with my favorite local hardware store guy I took home a product called “Flitz:”

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 It did a spectacular job on the brightwork. It is odorless, doesn’t seem to irritate my persnickety princess skin, left no scratches, and removed the corrosion admirably.

I kept reading on the bottle: “Restores paint too.” and thinking hmm. hmm.

I had noticed on ebay someone was selling a drive band cover identical to the one on my machine with better paint for $12. I felt like this left me very little to lose. I took it off, and tested on the underside first. One gentle rub and the Japanning brightened right up. I very carefully worked over the stencils, and they gleamed with no sign of damage. 

I cleaned up carefully and did some research. It seems there are a number of products folks successfully use to do this job, including TR-3. I haven’t tried it and don’t much care for the materials data sheet, but the existence of polishes that would safely clean up sewing machines without damage bolstered my confidence. I worked over the machine, and was thrilled with the result. 

This was my set-up:

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I started with tri-flow and a rag to get as much loose as I could:

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then switched to the Flitz polish with an extra soft natural bristle toothbrush:

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Working an area small enough to let me remove it before it dried, as per the instructions: 

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Then wiped off:

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Buffed and stropped: 

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Carefully cleaned out the polish left behind in crevices: 

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Then went back to touch-up stubborn areas with more Flitz on a cloth with my finger:

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I rubbed carefully, wiping away occasionally to see progress: 

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The result was amazing. Here are the dirty rags and shiny machine: 

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… and the corroded faceplate. That’s next! First Flitz:

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It found some shiny parts, but just wasn’t getting through the worst. When I was visiting The Captain he recommended polishing paper or fine 0000 steel wool for cleaning tension disks, and I decided to try something similar. I had some “Norton Soft Touch Mico-Fine Sanding Sponges,” so I decided to try them:

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Note these were 1200 – 1500 grit. The result was spectacular: 

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That’s the same plate, and the corrosion from it on the sanding sheet. Which is thankfully washable, so that sheet is the one I used on the whole machine, with some cleanings.

The sanding sponge left a bit of a haze, so I used another round of Flitz? 

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And, wow. What a difference:

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It’s hard to capture shininess, but notice the table is now casting a reflection from the column and the needle bar. And that filthy spot from the beginning of the post is now clean: 

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Cleaner than the picture, actually. I hadn’t seen the splotch of goop between the leaf and stem on the head until I post-processed the images. That’s gone now, too, as is the little bit of remaining oil stain under the oil port.

Next up: waxing. I want to add some protection to the stencils, and I’m hoping to get a little bit of fill into the scrapes on the table.

I’m thrilled with the progress, and have been sewing with her. VS machines do NOT like free motion work. At all. but she makes beautiful stitches quietly and smoothly. 

Rocketeer Feed Dog Cover Repair

January 12, 2014 - 4:57 pm

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Someone posted to one of my mailing lists that they were having trouble removing their feed dog cover plate because the lever wouldn’t move all the way, and the plate didn’t lift sufficiently to remove the plate. I’m having the same issue with Ada, as well as an intermittent power issue, *and* she needed an oiling, so I decided to give her some love and take some photos of the feed dog issue.

This is the lifter for the feed dog cover on the 500 series. It’s all the way across the body of the machine from the feed dogs:

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When you do this: 

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It’s supposed to do this: 

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The posts that hold the feed dog cover plate are up, and there should be sufficient clearance to remove the plate. There is also a middle position in which the plate is high enough to keep the dogs from engaging with the fabric. In practice I don’t find the middle position functions as designed; Ada doesn’t make stitches when I raise the plate, and this is a common complaint on these machines. Not the problem I want to address today, however.

The issue, which may or may not be apparent, is that the posts don’t lift high enough to allow the plate to be removed. When I switch from the straight stitch plate to the zigzag I have to remove the needle and turn the hand crank to where the feed dogs are at their lowest and then jiggle and wiggle and curse a little to get it out. Annoying. So I’m fixing it.

First, I removed the cover plate and two lower plates for the lever:

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There was some lint and no lubrication, but generally things looked fine. I didn’t expect the lever to be the source of the problem since mine would move to all the way to the left, so I flipped the machine up to examine her underbelly. Here is where the lever passes through the case:

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There is a looooong bar across the machine to the bottom of the feed dog posts.

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Here are some close ups:

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They should get elevated by the bar pressing on springs when the lever is moved to the left, but mine were reluctant to budge much.

At this point there are two possibilities that occurred to me. Either it’s a lubrication problem, or the springs are dead. I can’t fix the latter, so I decided to address the former. I set the machine back into the surface of the table, and started lubricating.

First I lubed and reassembled the lever.

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BE VERY CAREFUL replacing the screws. The lever makes it challenging to align the screws with the holes without binding the screws, and potentially damaging the threads. I found it was easiest to set the screws if I pulled the lever up and to the left. 

(No shots of the reassembly. I guess I was cursing too much to think about it.)

Next I started lubing the posts.

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I added a drip of oil, wiggled the lever a bunch, added more oil, wiggled the lever more, and kept doing that. Eventually yucky brown oil started coming back out of the hole where I was putting clean clear oil. I wiped the icky stuff off and kept applying until the lever moved smoothly and the oil coming back up was clean.

I found it easiest to apply the oil effectively when the posts were raised, not when they were lowered as in the pictures. That way I could get a drip on the back of the post and carry it down into the channel. I didn’t get any good pictures of the ick at its worst, but you can see some on the edges here: 

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Once the oil was nice and clear and the posts were moving more freely I replaced the feed dog cover plate, and it slipped into place nicely. I’ll keep after the lubrication for a couple weeks, but I’m hoping that’s all that was wrong.

Ada also appreciated getting lubed, and I’m appreciating the light staying on without having to jiggle the plug. There was a loose connection, but nothing a pair of pliers and a little electric tape couldn’t solve.

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