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.