Thursday, March 15, 2012

Buying Vintage or Antique Machines (Cont.)

Hopefully my last post made sense.  It's really a subject near and dear to my heart, these old vintage/antique machines are fantastic, and if you're looking to "go green" I can't think of a better way!  (I'm NOT actually a "greenie", my carbon footprints are all over the place, but in this?  I'm green, without really meaning to be!)

If you're a quilter, tell me, do you REALLY need that big fancy machine with all of the fancy stitches?  Do you USE those fancy stitches?  Most don't.  Most folks that own those machines play with the stitches a bit, and sit down to quilt with straight stitching.

You can't get a better straight stitch than you can with a straight stitch only machine.  We're talking about "old" machines.  Those old black Singers, New Home, White, etc. can't be beat when it comes to a straight stitch.  Guess what?  The harps/throat space on these oldies is bigger too!  My Singer 201-2 has a nine inch throat on it.  My Singer 15-91 is 8 1/2 inches.  The others are comparable.  This is my 15-91:

See how much space you have for a bulky quilt?  Perfect straight stitches, because it CAN'T stitch to the side! A zigzag machine has a needlebar that can be shifted to one side or the other in order to make the zigzag stitch.  While the machine is in straight stitch mode, that needlebar can still be shifted to one side or the other when sewing over heavy seam joins.   Since a straight stitch only machine doesn't have the zigzag feature, and therefore no need to move side to side, you can't force it to the side with a heavy seam.

This particular machine is from 1946, and has worked from the moment I plugged it in.  I have better luck with free motion quilting on this machine than I do with my 201-2.  This machine has a vertical bobbin, and that seems to work better for me than does the drop in or horizontal bobbin of the 201.  The 201 does  killer straight stitch quilting though!

Even tho the treadle machines themselves are awesome, if you're looking for a common use workhorse with somewhat modern features, then stay away from the treadle machines.  Treadles have a bit of a learning curve for most folks, they're not as fast as an electric machine, and depending on the model of treadle, needles may be hard to come by.  I'll write about them next time.

If you're looking for a workhorse, much like the other e-machines I wrote about last time,  check for the following:

1.  Wiring.  Make sure that there are no cracks or breaks in the insulation covering the wiring.  If there are cracks or breaks, it doesn't mean you shouldn't buy the machine, it just means that you can't USE the machine until those issues are repaired.  Find out before you go to look at the machine approximately what it would cost to rewire it if necessary (along with other possible repairs).
2.  Turn the handwheel.  Does it turn easily?  If it's a bit stiff, then it's likely that it's only old oil that is holding things up.  New oil and working the wheel will loosen it.
3.  When you turn the handwheel, does the needle go up and down?  If not, it could also be an oil problem, or you could have rust that is interfering.  Unless you want a project machine to learn repairs on, I'd pass.
4.  Make sure it's got a bobbin casing and bobbin. the bobbin is not quite so important, those are replaceable, but the bobbin casing (that the bobbin fits into) can cost $50 or more to replace.
5.  Assuming that the wiring is good, the handwheel turns and the needle moves, you remembered to bring a scrap of fabric, a needle, and some thread, right?  Thread the machine (they all thread basically the same way, with the main difference being that some thread right to left, and others left to right, a few thread front to back.)   Plug that baby in and stitch with it.  Does it make stitches?  Don't worry about tension at this point, that's an easy want to know that it's not skipping stitches.  If it's skipping stitches, check to make sure that the machine and bobbin are threaded correctly.  If it's still skipping, you may want to test it with a new needle.  If you exhaust all of the common "fixes" for skipped stitches, then it may be that the timing is off...that can be fixed, but know what it will cost before you commit to the machine.

Next time, we'll talk about the treadle and handcrank machines! :)

"The Guy" update.  Still, no one has gotten their machines or their money.  He claims that they're all repaired, and waiting to ship out, but he's not done it.   Things are getting snarky on his PDA once again, and the snarks are his defenders!  Everyone else, that I can see, has been polite....firm, but polite.  They state facts.  One from "across the pond" staunchly defends him...couldn't tell you why...other than I guess she believes his bs stories.
Oh..and guess what?  He couldn't go to his "studies" because he had infections from being forced to fix the machines that he's had what?  Some for YEARS.  I coulda told you he'd say that.  And yes.  I think he's lying, again.