05 November 2011

Well hell, CNN has just sent a breaking news alert to my inbox that Andy Rooney of 60Minutes has died aged 92 following complications after minor surgery.

He was my favourite segment of 60Minutes, providing valuable training to this Curmudgeon-In-Training among laughter and nearly constant agreement with his venting against whatever annoyances struck him that week. Sometimes his pieces moved me to tears, too. He was great, and will be missed by the sensible everywhere who had the privilege of watching him on 60Minutes.

RIP, Mr. Rooney, you will be missed, and you are thanked by millions of C-I-T worldwide.

I was going to blog about my vintage Singer sewing machines today. I think I may have mentioned that Paul presented me with a 1933 Singer treadle model 66 for a wedding present in an earlier post. That machine and I are spending the winter together in the lovely new workroom Paul graciously gave up on as first a lounge (living room to American readers) then as a master bedroom. It is a huge lovely room warmed by a large Bohemian wood stove, lit by the huge front window, and is the perfect place for my now five sewing machines:

A 50s model Russian made Jones electric that converts to hand or treadle operations, but unfortunately is a side loading bobbin machine (WHY DO THEY MAKE THOSE WRETCHED MACHINES?!) that I am having a great deal of difficulty finding a manual for. At this point I would take one written in Russian although the machine is one manufactured for the British market.

And my four Singer lovies:

A 70s model 513 Stylist, all metal except for the bobbin gear. Guess what broke in the middle of the first project I sewed on it? Happy accident, though, it led us to a wonderful 80-ish years old former mechanic (read repairman) for Singer down in Clydesbank where my four lovies were manufactured. The 513 has several whistles and bells, straight, reverse, zig-zag, and something called Flexi-Stitch that I am having a TERRIBLE time getting to work WITH me. It's for knits, and with winter fast approaching (it was 33F here this morning at 0700 Scotland Time), I really need that feature to work-long johns and janes won't be made without that Flexi-Stitch feature, dang it!

A 60s model 449 Straight Stitch (and that's all it does, although it does have a reverse button, and stitches an incredibly lovely stitch)

The aforementioned 1933 treadle model 66, which I will now extoll as the most lovely gift I've ever received (except for the presents my son gave/gives me). It too is a straight stitch machine, but can be made to perform a zig-zag by the attachment of a special foot that will also fit onto the 449. No need for me to buy that attachment as long as I can keep the 513 running, but one of these days I think I will buy the zig-zagger foot. One of these days. More on attachments later...The treadle, cabinet, and machine are in pristine, 'start sewing with me today' condition and the decals look as though they were applied yesterday, but Paul (now the proud possessor of the Ultimate Refurbishment and Repair Manual for all things treadle and hand crank) is going to go over it with a fine toothed comb before I actually get started. The cabinet drawers hold the original manual, needles, bobbins, and a spare foot, and there is room for the tool box that holds the attachments set that came standard with the machine but didn't last the years to make it to me...this morning I received the Holy Grail of attachments...more on this later...

And finally, the incredible 1917 hand crank model 99, the baby sister of the 66-meaning it is the 3/4 scale copy of the 66 and uses many of the same parts, all of the same instructions including repair and maintenance, and is in the original bentwood case-with key. (Forgive me, I want to use a pure tonne of exclamation points at this juncture because finding that machine in the animal charity shop in Devon was an incredible stroke of the Sewing Angels leading my wonderful husband to its hiding place behind a rack of clothes, and for it to be in its bentwood case with the key and a few spare bobbins is next to miraculous frankly. So I want to jump up and down, and put LOTS of exclamation points, WOOHOO, I am over the moon!) The decals on the 99 are worn in the exact place fabric would feed over the plate. The hand crank turns smoothly. The case needs a nice lot of work with a restorative, but the key works and so does the machine.

Yes I have pictures-awful ones not worth keeping on the laptop, so I will post pics when I finally learn how to get good ones.

Now. 'Bout those attachments...

OMGsh I am now the thrilled and grateful owner of a complete GODZILLA BOX of Singer attachments that fit all four of my Singer lovies! I can now sew just about anything (except zig-zag) on my straight stitch machines, and if I'd like, the 513 as well. The tucker looks most interesting to me at this point, but there is a ruffler, two different types of binders, an under braider...eight lovely sewing machine attachments in all, and all in the wonderful Godzilla Box complete with a layout leaflet.

It doesn't have the instruction manual for the attachments because Singer cleverly included these attachments as standard in most of their machine sales, and the instruction manuals for the machines include instructions for using the attachments. So the manual never came standard with the box, just the layout leaflet so the home sewer could put the tools away properly until next time.

I commented recently on a vintage Singer machine blog that for me there is something both romantic and practical about sewing on a machine that is a functioning antique. Frankly, it's Zen. Sometimes I go into the workroom and just stand there looking at those two aged beauties thinking about the things they've seen. I think about the home sewers who sewed for their families through two world wars and the arrival of the motor car, space travel, video recording, and the Internet.

And somewhere in that I can hear Andy Rooney commenting on how modern sewing machines will never be able to compete with the one his Gran used to make his short pants back in the day.

Tick-tick-tickety-tick, what a lovely sound a treadle and hand crank sewing machine makes.

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