Friday, December 30, 2011

The Thor Gladiron Mangle

Oh, boy I got a little crazy this time.  I was shopping my local favorite thrift shop and low and behold this beauty was sitting in the corner.  It was an item I have long been curious about, an iron mangle.
The Mighty Ironrite
 Many times I have seen lovely ones like this Ironrite but space has always been a problem.  Now here was a little one that I could actually fit in my sewing space!  It came home right away.
She's So Cute! 
The Thor Gladiron is a bit less common and sophisticated than the bigger and more deluxe Ironrite but it does have it's charms.  The idea of using a roller iron is not gone, there are still mangles made today.  The Miele company has a nice one as seen Here. There is less demand of course as we just don't do so much household ironing.  Who irons bedsheets and tea towels?
Fabric on the Roller

Using this item has taken some practice.  Now, I am a dinosaur that actually does iron clothes and with sewing there is always a need for an iron.  Operating a Gladiron is almost completely different than what I am used to.  Thankfully, there is an instruction manual that shows how to iron every thing from dish cloths, shirts, bras and even underwear.  The main selling point is that you can iron a shirt in 4 minutes - but I have not been able to do it nearly so fast.....yet.  I am still trying to get used to using a spray bottle and two hands for handling the fabric without it pulling all crazy through the roller.  Practice practice practice. 

How it works: It works by just placing the fabric on the arm, plug it in and then the fabric feeds through.  Keep hands away from lava hot metal iron. 

Gladiron Temperature Gauge

It is a simple machine really.  There is a temperature control dial that can be adjusted with great sensitivity - moderate to very very hot.  Much variable heat than a typical iron.  Once it is plugged in the roller turns.  There is no on/off switch.  All controls are with a knee lever that has 3 positions.  It is a combination of those three position that make it stop, open or move again.
Three Position Knee Control
 Once you get a feel for it it's really easy.  There are side extensions to add to the work space but I have no room now - even for a picture, sorry.  They are stored underneath for the time being.
Gladiron Table Extensions
  The nice thing about this, other than it's utter coolness, is that is takes up as much space as a nightstand.  If you need to store it, the entire top can be folded downwards to fit inside frame sideways.  I broke the screw that holds it in place in transit, so no folding for the time being.
Now, it won't replace a regular iron and board but it does have some use.  I pre-wash a lot of  fabric and getting it pressed for cutting is a pain, particularly if there is 2 or more yards.  This baby makes short work of that job, and does well at high and low temperatures.  It's kind of fun to use too.
Here's a quick view if it in action. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Colorful Quilt

I was asked to maybe write something about a project I've made with these old machines.  Because I normally make things for other people, and are garments, I enjoy doing something completely different for my free time.  Quilting is a new found joy.  Why I resisted for so long, I know not.  This time I tried a project that had more than squares.  I bought a jelly roll of fabric, added some of my own and made borders.  The pattern was only for the inside and is called a "braid".  The rest I made to fit the bed and batting size.

It started this way.  Cut  and then sewn together in this manner. 

 There was a lot of experimenting on how to sew them together with no trimming but alas, it was better this way after all.  The next part was to add the borders, more fabric and then to quilt the whole thing.  I am not one who enjoys free motion quilting so I yet again did strait rows.  Free motion is for next time.

The Viking 2000 (early 60's), Eldredge Rotary (1930's) and the Singer 27 (1889) did all the piece work and the Pfaff 131 (1950) did quilting.   It seems every machine has it's specialty so it's rare I do anything on only one machine.  I am guessing it's not just me who does this.
I am very inspired by the many quilters I met through the internet.  How do they do it?  I am still trying to figure out some things.  One of them is how do you match patterned fabric?  I just gave up and let myself relax about the non-matchy thing.  This particular one may be a little extreme - and my husband was very leery of it (as usual) but in the end it sort of works.  I guess that is the lesson the wise ones know. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making Button Holes with the Bernina 730

This is a very specific post, but I hope is helpful to those who own a Bernina 730 Record.  It's not the new Bernina730E but still has it's charms.  This 1969 avocado darling was top of the line in her day and still is tops in my sewing room.  It is my best all around sewing machine.  It has sewn for miles and years with no repairs at all.  It produces stitches of the best quality.  That said, it does have a weird semi automatic buttonhole set up.  If you find yourself confused, you are not alone.  Here is a step by step tutorial:

*Before you begin, get your manual out.  I still refer to it, after 25 years.
*Check to see if the buttonhole lever is movable.  It is very common for this lever to be frozen in place.  If so, try Tri-flow and a blow drier to loosen it. Below is a photo of the lever in the correct position for buttonholes.  You should be able to pull down to engage it.

*Prepare the bobbin by threading through the "finger".  This gives a little more tension to give a good stitch.  *Attach the buttonhole foot, as in this picture.

Threaded Bobbin and buttonhole foot
Making the Buttonholes
1.  Set the knobs on the machine as shown the manual.   Side lever up, stitch length to the top.

2.  Set zig zag by moving the lever to the right until it hits the stop gently.  That moves the zig zag gears into alignment.  Move the needle position lever to match up white lines on zig zag control.  It's a bit off here, but until I have another photo this gives an idea.  Thanks to a reader for helping.
Move to the right, these are the correct zig zag settings it should have set for you.
3.  Buttonholes start by going away from you.   Make sure your needle is in the center.  If you need ot , turn hand wheel to get it in place (it usually already is).

Begin making your buttonhole starting at your marker to your other mark.  I use pins but remove them when the presser foot is in the right position.
First side, backwards.
4.  With needle up, push lever to the left stop.  This makes the bar tack.  Hold fabric tightly for this.
Left stop position
 5.  Needle up,  move lever to the right stop.  This will start it forwards.   Below is the right stop position.
Right side stop position

Note:  it is very tempting to pull or move the fabric.  My best advice is to resist - it does better when you just let it go no matter how scary that is!
6.  With needle up, push lever to the left stop.  Make another bar tack, hold fabric tightly.
7.  To secure the tack:  Move the lever over the right stop - way over -  past the screw.  It should look like this:

It will stay in place, locking the zig zag and going up the side slightly in tiny stitches.

This all sounds terribly complicated but after a few times it should take only a few minutes.  Basically, here is the procedure in shorthand:
Always have needle up to move lever, hold fabric on tacks.
Stitch back
Left stop
Right stop
Left stop
Far right stop, 3 stitches.

The drawback to this system is that, as like with all manual buttonholes, you have to measure each one perfectly.  Another is that you can't do a second pass.   
They turn out OK but if you spend a little more time the corded ones are the best.  The Bernina buttonhole foot has a hook at the end to allow for string to go under the foot and under the stitches for a raised effect.  I use this when using heavier fabrics mostly.

On a related topic, the Singer Buttonholer cannot be used on the Bernina 730.  Finally got around to trying it out and alas, it was not very good.  It did fit the Buttonholer's cloth plate, and with an low shank adapter fit the needle clamp.  The machine's extension bed was in place for support.  The problem is the bar that holds the Bernina presser feet secure is not positioned well for the buttonholer to fit under it.  I did get a buttonhole made, but it came loose a few times causing the adapter to fall away.

Very close, but it was enough to break my needle and come apart  a few times.  If there was a buttonholer with a lower profile then it would work fine.  Mystery solved.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Green Machine, the Elna Supermatic

The Elna Supermatic's design is one of those you love or hate.  It has a very confident look about it, for sure.  That color, that greeeeeeeen!  Myself, I love it.  It has very sleek modern styling, especially considering the year it was introduced: 1952.  Later years had slightly different colors, so if this is too much, consider the other which was light green   Later models were beige and not so flashy.

The Supermatic was the next sewing machine made by Tavaro of Switzerland.  The first being the Number 1, of the The Grasshopper.  It has all of the feature of that little one, notably the free arm, and more.  From what I can tell, this model introduced the cam to the home sewing machine market.  They were called "discs" and fit onto the Elnagraph inside the sewing machine itself.  That was how designs were made.  It can do many stitches this way, but what I use most are the stretch and zig zag.  Because it can use those discs, it's hard to imagine this machine being as old as it is.  The advertisements do place it in time, though.
This was a time for buying a sewing machine, no doubt. Lot s of advertisements to introduce Americans to this Swiss company.  The competition must have been fierce.  In my house alone I have several sewing machines made at this time.  So many new families just starting out after the WWII.  The pressure for innovation made for some great results, the Elna Supermatic was a good example of this.

Technical details

*Low shank.  That means it will take all those fun things like 1/4" foot and walking foot.
*Uses 15x1 Needles
*Uses "Elna" bobbins, available at fabric stores.
* Works best when oiled properly.  Will be noisy of you don't.
*The Supermatic comes with a knee control.
 I do not like those, but it does save floor space.  Many people love the knee control, however.  As far as I know, it was not offered with a foot control. Not a big deal.
Bobbin is inserted behind the presser foot.
 The only part that was a bit of a mystery to me when I first brought it home was this: How do the discs work?  Do you need them to do zig zag?  There were no discs with my machine when I got it so this was not a problem but lo and behold I found a whole box of them later.  They are a mix, some from a later Elna and some from a Supermatic. To answer the main question in my mind back then: Yes, you do need a disc for zig zag.
Single and Double Discs.  Lots of them.

That brings me to a similar topic.  You can use presser feet from later Elnas and Cams as well.  They do fit and work fine.

How to use the Discs
I write this as it did cause me some trouble at first.  Maybe this will help someone. 
Set the stitch length and width to "0".  The manual says to do this, and that is to make room to set the disc in correctly.  I can't tell you how many tries I made before actually breaking down and reading that very thing, and then it worked perfectly (sigh).
Set to "0"

Unscrew the plastic/ bakelite nut on the shaft or Elnagraph.
This knob is removable.
Place the new disc onto the shaft, matching up the little pin on the vase to your disc's hole.  It will snap into place.  Replace the bakelite nut, it must be on tightly.
What the stitches look like
Now you can sew as normal.  Like any cam, it takes a little experimentation as to how long a stitch or width you like.  Here is an example.
To remove, bring it back to "0" on both settings. Unscrew the nut and remove the discs.  I use a screwdriver head very gently as my machine does not have it's disc lifter accessory.  You will need something to help.  When it is loose, I use my hands to get it out.
Be very careful, set to "0" again and lift.

The Case
The case is so cool, I have to show it.  It is almost as heavy as the machine is, and become a table by folding it origami style.
Sturdy table from the case.

Very nice travel case.

The Supermatic has a pretty good reputation but also a flaw many people come up against.  I was one of those people.  If left for a long time, the friction pulley can become flat on the side.  That doesn't stop the machine but will make it very ....and I mean VERY loud.  Like a helicopter.  Thankfully there is a fix for this.  I got a rental tool and a part from White Sewing Center:
  If you are in this predicament, do not give up, try this.  There are many other things for older Elna's there too.

In Summary
There are many sewing machine that are more smooth and quiet.  That said, this beauty is more versatile than most vintage sewing machines.  With the stretch stitch discs it is comparable to most sewing machines made into the 1980's.  It can handle all sorts of modern threads with no problem.  It is not terribly strong, but does very well with garment fabrics from denim to batiste.  Fun to use, simple and not fussy....... and it's green.  What's not to love?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Improved Eldredge Rotary Sewing Machine

Improved Eldredge Rotary Sewing Machine
Here she is, my first vintage sewing machine.  To place this in time, I bought this in a thrift shop in San Luis Obispo shortly after I got married.  I thought it was a cool little desk.  When trying to get in my car it seemed a bit heavy but no problem I got it home.  It was only when I went through the drawers did I note there was a manual in there and realized it was a sewing machine cabinet.  By golly, there was a sewing machine tucked inside!  How far I have come.

May I introduce you to the Improved Eldredge Rotary.  It is a sewing machine worth noting, as I do see these on occassion so they are still out there.  This model was made in the mid 1930's but I have yet found no confirmation on the actual date.  Eldredge at this point was affiliated with National Sewing Machines, and it bears much similarity.  The decals on this machine has been seen on other makes, notably the Greybar made by Free Westinghouse.  It is very "Art Deco".  Here is a close up of the pillar design again:
Manual, attachment box, one of the hemmers, bobbin case and bobbin.
Love this illustration, a girl with bobbed hair.

This machine came with a full set of attachments, bobbins and manual.  The attachment set are the basic rotary type made by Greist.  They are very high quality and have managed to stay perfect despite being in my damp former home near the ocean on California's Central coast.  If you need a source for bobbins and needles, here is where I get mine.
The bobbins can be ordered online here:  Eldredge Rotary Bobbins
It takes a less common needle, as Nationals do. The size is 20x1 and can be found here:
20x1 Needles
A manual if your machine did not come with one or you cannot find one: 
Improved Eldredge Rotary Manual

The standout feature of this machine and other Eldredge machines I have seen is the beauty of the cabinets.  There are others, and they are all really nice.  This particular one, like the machine itself, also has a Art Deco feel.  Check out these drawer pulls!
Bakelite insert

Using the Eldredge is much like other sewing machines but there are a few little things that are worth mentioning.  The thread path is a bit longer than most and so take care to check to make sure you are doing it right.   Because it has a few extra stops on the way, I always pull the top thread way out before starting a seam.  This machine has slipped it's thread more than any other.  This thread path set up does seem to have an advantage in that the tension is very sensitive.  This makes it able to handle all sorts of thread.  The one I like best is the clear nylon thread used for quilt tops.  It also handles very heavy thread like the yellow jean top stitch thread.  It is also is deceptively strong, it does not look like it would but this one can sew through heavier material quite well.
Stitch samples
 The stitches are adjusted by a sliding knob on the side, another different feature.  It is numbered from 1 to 10.  Number 1 being the longest stitch.  It is really long too, perfect for basting.
The strait stitch presser foot sews a perfect 1/4 inch.  That, combined with large area to the right (harp space) and the ability to handle the nylon thread  makes the Eldredge Rotary a good quilter.  The elegant style makes using it all the better.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fabric Shopping On Holiday

Inspiring fabrics

I am sure I am not the only one who does this:  Buying fabric while on vacation.  My luggage was stuffed on the way home.  This time I thought I'd share one of my favorite spots to indulge this desire.  In my opinion, there is no better style of print than the Hawaiian style.  I can't get enough of it.  I am not from Hawaii, either.  Love it- love it -love it.  Love it when it's just yardage, love it when it's a shirt, love it vintage, love it as a dress, love it on any age or size of man and especially on a good hula dancer.

If you are interested and find yourself in Hawaii, my recommendation is to seek out a good fabric store, such as Fabric Mart.  Inexpensive fabric is just a bonus it's the selection that is so fun.  They are also online but not going into the shop is like  reading a description of a "Loco Moco" and not ever eating a plate of it.  (FYI: Loco Moco  ).  Make a day of Hawaiian comfort fabric and Hawaiian comfort food.  Fabric Mart in Maui is in Kahului.  Loco Moco is everywhere.

The location of Fabric Mart in Maui
Had to throw this in, on the way back from fabric shopping this was the car next to us....."Howzit brah?"