Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Just Like Buses...

I have a liking for Willcox and Gibbs chain stitch machines - beautiful, useful, and cute..  And, like buses, they come along in bunches.. This week's intake

Treadle number 1 - a most beautiful beastie, with a convoluted and pretty iron base. It's tiny, and surprisingly heavy
Side of the irons

And the plate - it has a wooden pitman and a really nice little concealed drawer in the top for the tools. It came to me from a local contact

Number 2 has a much lighter and more elegant set of irons, and a rather crude single-layer top.

This one I collected (from a top-floor flat!) in Bedford, and for all it is lighter, not a heck of a lot lighter by landing number 3. It came with a most curious thing - a Guhl and Harbeck with a Willcox and Gibbs hand crank (loosely) attached - I think this may be a Straw Hat machine. No foot, but my box of Odds has provided a good candidate..
And then, this little beauty, yesterday

With a box, tools

and more.  Fettling time!
All three will be for sale, pretty soon

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Bananas

Well, how else would you describe this little treasure?
Most definitely Banana coloured...


I took this one to the Festival of Quilts, and used it to demo quilt blocks on the Guild stand all weekend, then sold her and all the others I took with me.. One blue, three black, one most definitely in need of custard.
Made probably by Vickers, in the late 1940s, this shuttle machine was well-mannered and quiet, and, apart from having to wind bobbins more frequently than I am used to, quite the most delightful old girl.. Gone to a new home near Bedford, with a Blue Alfa for company

Now, back to Counting things...

Thursday, 7 September 2017

A is for Alphabet...

From a customer, much excited with her Alphabet Stitcher attachment.. Posted with permission



Hi Helen, Received the Alphabet Stitcher this morning and am pleased as punch! Thank you so much. There is a little story attached to this. I have a New Home Memory 7 which I bought in 1981 and it's still going strong with the help of a service each year. The shop where I bought my machine had the Alphabet Stitcher attachment for sale and as money was tight at the time I bought the machine and the first letter (A) and was planning to buy the rest of the alphabet a bit at a time but before that happened the shop went out of business and I never got to acquire the rest. How lucky I was to find your online shop. I found you through a google search for an Alphabet Stitcher.
Thank you once again and all the best.
Kind regards
Julia

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Breeding Treadles

(They need privacy, but I hope these two will make an industrial ZZ between them)
Singer Improved manufacturing, probably from about 1880. In it's original treadle and from the son of its long-time user (probably not from new)

Elegant ironwork

And, my birthday present to myself, a Singer 216g zigzag treadle.. It came with a horrid motor, which we discarded

School-house treadle.. 1950s, so about my age

Decals from the 216g. I don't think these are on any other models

Badge from the IM

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Art Nouveau Elegance

This beautiful boy came in to gather a key and be opened again to the world.. Such lovely decals



They don't make them like this any more..

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Crankling

Had a Really Dirty Day, and fixed all these lovely hand-cranks
An amazing amount of grot removed, new grease, leather finger-fettles, all sorted and numbered and listed for sale here
http://www.helenhowes-sewingmachines.co.uk/cranks.html



Oh, the fun we have...
I have also reduced all the Repros (mine are good, as repros go, but I would like them to go away... Few Parts, too

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

About some needles - be warned, not sympathetic

I get two or three emails a week which run something like this one, which came recently..

"I was wondering if you sold the needles for the 319k.
Also I know that 12's and 14's are most commonly available. I wondered if it's possible to get any other sizes? 
I sew a lot with denim and want to know what needles is best to use. I have been naughty and using schmetz leather needles in my machine. (Which work beautifully) but I'm scared about damaging my machine (because I adore her) or loosing or eye! " (all mis-spellings sic) 

I generally reply in the vein of "Don't do that, please. Your machine is nice but sadly a bit obsolete, and it was not designed for this type of work even when you could buy other sizes of needles" 

At this point I usually get an almighty snit from the enquirer, and indeed, today's was no exception.. "you're mean, you're rude, you're brusque and not helpful; I expect better, I expect nicer, I expect, I expect..." 
Possibly, but if you ask an expert for (free) advice, then dislike the advice, it doesn't make the expert any less right, or the advice any less cogent.. 

And, I answer 100 emails most days - would you like an essay next Tuesday, or a reply today? You might wait a really long while for the essay, unless I like you, or I think you are a Nice Person..

I'm not your mamma; I don't have to soothe you, particularly if I think you are being silly...

Now, there's a lot of good reasons for not using the wrong needles.. The 206 x 13 type has a much shorter point below the eye.. (No, I don't know why Singer did this, but I suspect it was another of their "You can't get it elsewhere" games.)
This means that the regular needles (which have a longer point) will hit the bobbin case sometimes or more-often-than-sometimes, with results from scabby bobbin-cases to broken needles (You'll have your eye out with that...)
This in itself would be bad enough, but if you are working on "over-thick" fabrics (these are machines for dressmaking, maybe suits, not for car seats or boat covers or denim bags) then the needle is still in the top layer of the fabric when the feed is moving the cloth along, and this leads to all manner of scabs, breaks, frustration, and eyes-out.

None of which are good for you or the machine.

Unsympathetic? Moi? Too damned right I am unsympathetic. Or, I have no sympathy for you, but much for the poor old machine...

So, use it nicely, make frocks and patchwork, buy up needles when you see them. I have 12s (small) and 14s (medium) and absolutely nothing else.. The above correspondent assures me that "many sizes" are available on eBay, but I certainly cannot find them...

Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Not Everything in a Sewing Machine..

..is actually sewing-machine related.. Sometimes the most delightful collections offer themselves
This lot came in an old shuttle machine. Some of these seem rather poignant - particularly the burned photograph
The little bicycle brooch is silver...

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Little Scraps of Paper...


A fairly typical "picking set" for processing, one day last week..
After endless messing-abouts with databases and book, nothing seems to beat Writing It Down on a piece of card, picking in a mushroom-tray, than sending it out..
Low Technology? Or Appropriate Tech, perhaps

Monday, 16 January 2017

Today's new arrivals...

Six pedals - four Husqvarna,one very nice Bernina, and a little Elna pedal that has been lurking around the workshop for some time.
They will all get a good clean, thorough testing, checking for safety, and new mains plugs before they go up for sale.
 One or two of the Husqvarna pedals may get rewired for other machines, depending on demand...

Friday, 13 January 2017

You know you're in trouble...

...when this faces you..

Sadly, I could not repair this machine, and it has gone to that great scrapyard in the sky (or, by the back door).
Be a little bit wary when faced with this sort of mess - you just know there will be a razor-blade (almost always rusty), lots of elderly pins, and (definitely in this one) about 100 needle-ends.  This poor old lady (a Frister and Rossmann 35, by the way) had a broken race cushion spring which I could neither remove nor match, and she sounded like someone hitting a gas bottle with a biggish hammer..
There is a point where I will spend far more time on a machine that it deserves, if I think it will be continuing useful.. This wasn't it.. RIP...


Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Cleaning Up - Part One - Long Bobbins



I've been sorting bobbins and shuttles - one of those particularly finickety stupid jobs which involve the eye, the hand, the knife, and the micrometer
Now, cotton thread attracts moisture to a degree that is quite damaging to sewing machines.. I am firm about not storing machines with a cotton piece under the foot unless they are both dry and frequently used.. Sometimes the foot is welded to the needle-plate with rust, to the detriment of both
And long bobbins are commonly made from two metals - the ends are brass, easy to machine, the bar between is steel, so inclined to corrode.  I usually clean off any thread on bobbins that come in, because this means I can see the condition clearly, and also because the endless tangles in the bags are reduced thereby...
And, well, really! Do you think several pieces of old (rusty)  thread need preserving, beneath the top layer? The thread is crushed and the bobbin capacity reduced to nothing.. My record is 43 different pieces on one long bobbin, some only 2 or 3 inches long.. A particular sort of idleness indeed.

So, unroll the rubbishy old stuff, please. Clean off the stuck-on remains with a sharp blade (mind your fingers!) and clean up with a little 0000 steel wool...