Saturday, November 13, 2010

What is this Odd Little Thing? A Zig Zagger

If you have a strait stitch only sewing machine but wish it would do a zigzag stitch, you're not alone.  I feel the same.  There is something you can use to make your machine more versatile that is easy and inexpensive.  I love my vintage beauties but also like clean seam finishes and making bathing suits.  Both are best with a zigzag stitch.  To solve this I tried a little gadget called a Chadwick Zig Zagger.   The Chadwick works like a ruffler and does indeed make a decent zig zag stitch.  That said, it has limitations.  The stitch isn't as good as a built in one nor is it as easy to adjust.    Here's a picture of it:

Chadwick Zigzagger
Zigzagger with 1889 Singer VS27
The one I have is for low shank machines so that includes several models.  Older Singers like the 27 shown here, 127 and 128, 99's, 66's  (except the back clamper Model 66), the featherweight, 201 and class 15's.  My Pfaff 131 works really well with this and so does the Elna #1 Grasshopper.  

Singer made their famous zig zagger but I have not used one.  If some one has one and would like to comment that would be helpful.
The Singer Zigzagger Attachment.  By the way, this is bait for a Singer 301.  Maybe if I have this this around the Singer 301 Machine will be along soon.
How to use it
The beauty of this little Chadwick is that it fits on quick and easy.  It is sort of like a ruffler.  Remove the presser foot.  The hook fits over the needle bar screw as you fit the zigzagger to the presser bar.  Replace the thumb screw.  Start sewing.....That's it. 

Zigzagger fits nicely on the Elna "Grasshopper"

Example of stitches made with the attachment on strait stitch machine.
There is a tiny screw on the back that adjusts the width of the zig zag.  It also comes with a guide to use a zig zag for lace insertion or edging. 

For the limitations they have, Chadwick and other zigzaggers really make using an older machine so much more practical.  They are small and fast to put on.  If you see one,  Get it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Old Fashioned Good Idea, The Buttonholer

I see them all the time in my thrift shop adventures.  Odd looking contraptions used to make buttonholes on your home creations.  I gathered a few and never used them until maybe a year ago.  How foolish.  These things are fun, and do an amazingly nice job.  Be warned, they are crazy to watch and they make a lot of noise.   An "entertains kids and pets" kind of thing.  For those interested in learning to sew, here's a good example of economy.  Save yourself some money and get a good older machine then add some fun stuff to make it more useful, like a buttonholer.  You won't have a one step computerized buttonhole, but this is pretty good and costs a lot less.

Usually the buttonholer box has a small manual in it.  To help make it easier to understand and a bit less scary, here are some visuals on set up and use.  The manual will tell you about changing the settings, making samples and where to start on the garment.  Enjoy!
Low Shank. Not all will fit all machines. Check This before you buy one.  This is shown on a Singer 15-91.

Fit hook over needle screw as you put it on.

Set template in, moving the plate if necessary

Screw cloth plate onto bed. This can be hard to do.

I use tape to secure the front.

Now, here is a buttonholer in action....

The Willcox & Gibbs Chainstitch Sewing Machine


The Willcox and Gibbs Chain stitch Sewing Machine is one of those vintage sewing machines that are seen frequently and used rarely.  That's a shame.  It's a really fun machine to use.  They are very different than your more common lock stitch machine so it's no wonder they get little use.  I had a tough time even threading mine at first.  Because of this, I thought I would try to shed a little light on this little lovely for those that may have one but are unsure of what to do with it.

The Willcox Gibbs has been made from the 1860's through the 1930's with very little change.  They have a distinctive circular shape that was treadle and hand crank then later fitted with a very fast electric motor.  That is the kind I will be showing here.  The advantage for use first would be cost.  It is cheaper to buy and uses less thread as there is no bobbin to add thread to.  The lack of bobbin also makes this a very quiet machine too.  It makes a humming sound and a treadle would be nearly silent. 
The stitch is a chain rather than two threads hooked together top and bottom like a regular lock stitch.

The Willcox Gibbs has a very handy function that would be useful to any seamstress today.  The chain made on the fabric can unravel if broken mid seam.  To a person who  is making a mock garment - or muslin - it is an advantage that can save time and improve accuracy.  Clip the last stitch and pull the tread.  No seam ripper needed and it comes apart very fast. 

Another thing that it does well is the chain stitch itself, as a decorative feature.  On the top side of the cloth there is a small line but on the underside the chain is very visible.....and very lovely.  It can be used with embroidery thread or regular thread to make a decorative line.  I used this as tone on tone edging to great effect.   It has an effect of embroidery, like redwork.

To help those who are unsure of the threading, here is an example.  A manual is a good idea, but this part still seemed a little hard to understand from the illustrations contained in it.  It's the part where the thread goes through the arm of the machine.  You will need a crochet hook or long needle for this.  Don't try and poke thread through like I did for an hour before getting the idea.....

Here is a video of the process of making a seam beginning to end.  Note the part where you raise the needle (turn the wheel away from you) to the top and then pull a bit of thread.  The length is then pulled through under the presser foot and cut, leaving a about 1" tail.  Then the presser foot is lifted and work pulled back.  Doing this is very different from the normal lock stitch and this way will save a lot of tangles. 
Enjoy your WG!