Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pfaff 130: We're On Our Way

Just looking at this picture gives me a happy feeling. The Pfaff 130 and I have embarked on what I hope will be a long and productive relationship. I say this knowing how fickle I am about sewing machines, but this one really does seem to have a great spirit. The industrial motor gives it all the power I find lacking in typical domestic machines, but at heart it is a versatile and flexible home machine.

I have notions about the butcher block table top. Its battered look has a lot of charm but, like the machine, it seems to be asking for some oil. And maybe a little sanding before the oil.

To bring the machine into service, I did a few mechanical things, and I've several yet to do. First of course was oiling. My general tendency is to start out by squirting lots of oil (specifically, I use Triflow lubricant, which has added silicone) in every apparent oil port. As I work on the machine, I add more and more. When I first started up with this sewing machine interest, I was very sparing with the oil. I had read cautions about not slopping it everywhere. It's true that there are parts (plastic ones) that don't need and probably don't benefit from coming into contact with oil. But not on this machine.

Gene Champion is a, err, well-seasoned sewing machine mechanic from Columbus, NC. He came up to troubleshoot a problem I was having with an old Singer walking foot machine last summer, and he ended up tending to most all of the machines I had at that time. He poured oil into a little cup and kind of sloshed it up into the underside of the machine (using his screwdriver as a ladle) as the machine was running full speed. That was my clue to be more liberal with the oil.

So I oiled and oiled and oiled the Pfaff and then I greased the gears in the machine pillar and behind the bobbin with Triflow grease. Disassembling and reassembling the hook nearly brought me to my knees, but I finally got it done. I oiled the spinning around areas leading into the antique industrial motor. (The motor still needs to be serviced but I am rather daunted by it).

The machine came to me making a slight zigzag when on the straight stitch setting. The service manuals found at the Old Pfaff Yahoo Group taught me how to fix that, and I surely would never have figured it out on my own.

I replaced the motor belt and bypassed the red device visible in my previous post. That was a speed reducer, it turns out. Why anyone would ever have felt the need to reduce the speed of this well-mannered industrial motor is a bit of a mystery to me. It's true I am used to industrial motors, but this one is a kitten. I can easily sew stitch by stitch with complete control. Everything works much better with just one belt controlling the motor directly.

What I am trying to convey here is that I've spent quite a bit of time on this machine, and yet there is still so much to be done! Working on old machines is time consuming and only makes sense as a labor of love. Or as a slightly unhealthy obsession.

Since the Pfaff uses M class bobbins, unlike any of my other current machines, I didn't have a spot for them in my usual bobbin holders. This magnetic tool rack had been kicking around the sewing room for a while, looking for a use. It sticks itself right to the frame of the table and holds the bobbins very securely. They are certainly right at hand!

This machine is my new love. I don't know what the future will hold for us, but the beginnings of a romance are very sweet!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pfaff 130 in an Industrial Table

There was no need.

But the presence of several outstanding vintage sewing machines hanging around waiting to be used was not enough to dissuade me from purchasing this Pfaff 130. Why did I want this one (since I could never claim to need it)?

It's in a butcher block table. I love them and have had my eye out for one for some time. It's not the kind of thing a person can buy on eBay.

There is a knee lift, presently deactivated. I have not yet worked out whether or how it can be brought back into service. Your thoughts welcome on this! But if I can have the knee lift on a classic vintage machine that does both straight stitch and zigzag, I would love it.

Pulley and industrial motor setup such as I have never worked with. I can't resist the lure of the unknown.

The machine and its paint and decals are in lovely condition. All of these photos are in "as found" condition. I am optimistic that this machine will clean up beautifully. That strip of masking tape on the bed in the photo is already a thing of the past.

That hump on the back is a device called the Automatic 50010. Pfaff's manual notes: "With this device some 54 varieties in fancy stitching can be done by the use of but one needle." Well, it may be some time before I get around to exploring those 54 varieties, but it's a curious and interesting device, which seems rather similar to the Wonder Wheel available for Necchi machines of the same era. You could purchase these to add a set of external cams (all completely metal, of course) to your basic zigzag machine.

Things you can't see from these photos: first, and most importantly, the needle and hook for this machine are mounted such that the needle goes in with the flat side to the back. I'm sure there's a name for this, such as "transverse" or some such, but I don't know it. This setup allows the use of a twin needle, unlike the needle mounting arrangement of the Necchi BU or the Singer 201 or lots of other vintage machines. When the eye of the needle faces to the side, a twin needle can't be used.

Second, and I must take more photos to show you, this machine came with a very complete set of attachments--hemmers and tuckers and rufflers and cording feet.

A happy discovery: the M class bobbin used by the Pfaff (no, it's not a class 15; that would be just too easy to be sporting) is the same as that used by many single needle drop feed industrials. I just sold one of these machines (long story), but I kept the nicest of the bobbins I had bought for it, which were manufactured by Viking for its MegaQuilter. It's a wonderful thing to have a good number of beautiful, high quality bobbins for this Pfaff, especially since the bobbins that came with it are quite corroded.

It wouldn't be an unnecessary, probably over-priced, Craigslist sewing machine purchase if I could just come home and sew, now would it? I've applied lots of oil to the visible points, but there is still much stiffness. Planned next interventions are to remove the hook and grease the hook gears and then to perhaps remove the handwheel and lubricate that area. It needs a new treadle belt, which I fortunately have. At the moment it is SLOW, which has come as a surprise.

So that's my find. What do you think?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Triple Test: French darts, Burda 7287 and Modal Knit

Today was an exciting day in the sewing room, as I was in test mode. I'm coming to understand that I prefer exploration to straight production (which would certainly explain why I wasn't quite content during my recent drapery workroom venture). Continually seeking out new questions and their answers is not the path to perfect technical skill or speed, but it does seem to be a pretty good formula for making me feel happy.

Long have I read about the mysterious properties of french darts. Here is a pithy definition from Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing: "French darts, as you may know, are diagonal darts side seam darts that start a couple inches above the waist and end near the apex of the bust."  I've always thought of french darts as also being curved, though I'm not sure whether that's part of the technical definition or not. 

So I've wondered: can French darts improve the fit of my t-shirts? And, perhaps more to the, cough, point, can I mark and sew them properly in a knit?

Burda 7287 has been in my consciousness since it came out in the fall. One thing I've noticed recently, and to my dismay, is that I have been sewing wool knit dresses and then NEVER WEARING THEM. In summer I live in dresses, but this winter it is just not happening. When I stand in front of the closet and try to figure out how to pile on enough layers to stay warm, plus tights and boots or flat shoes...well, it just seems too complicated. How can this be, as I've always felt the advantage of dresses is their simplicity? It probably boils down to footwear: I am not willing to accept any tiny degree of discomfort any longer. So pants it is for now.

Back to Burda 7287: I realized I can shorten it to a top length! How revolutionary yet totally obvious! Then I can try out the french darts and also the lovely high round neck (warm).

The third testing factor: a modal knit from FabricMart. I can share this with you because they have lots! 

If this garment is successful I will be buying more of this knit in the brown, the sand, the white and the navy. It is wonderfully, delightfully soft. Like those bamboo knits. Which I hate because they are also limp and droopy and saggy. So I decided to buy one yard of the modal to test. I have prewashed it once and it did great. Now I plan to sew it up and then wear it hard for a week, ideally with multiple washings. That seems to be the only way to know whether a knit will give good service. I just can't pamper a t-shirt.

From my one yard I got the t-shirt (which I hope to show you tomorrow) and also a pair of underwear. The undies are heavenly!! I do so hope that this fabric works out. It would be great to stock up on a hardwearing basic knit. Especially if FabricMart has a terrific sale (hint, hint).

Friday, February 3, 2012

Kwik Sew 3693: Something I Like, But Not A Whole Lot

Pattern Description: 

Open front cardigan with no closures. View A has angled hems and no pockets, View B has pockets and a hood. I made View A.

Pattern Sizing:

XS through XL

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

It looked like the pattern envelope photo, which was good in terms of Kwik Sew doing a good job of depicting their product, but maybe not quite so good in terms of being rather bland.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

Excellent instructions. As usual, Kwik Sew does not overcomplicate things. Unlike some other waterfall-type cardigans, the neck and shoulder construction was straightforward, well-explained and unfiddly. The construction of the pointed tips of the angled fronts was also easy and perfectly illustrated.

Great tip for creating fusible stay tape
Sorry I can't seem to link only to the post on making fusible tape, but Pam Erny featured a great way to use her Pro-Weft fusible, torn into strips on the crossgrain, as a tape. I happened to have some of this interfacing on hand and it worked great! I have a three step process: 1. Before sewing the front points, but after sewing the side seams, press up a 2" hem all around the fronts and back. 2. Serge the fusible tape to the wrong side of the hem, fusible side up. With Pam's method, you can make any width of fusible tape. I made mine about 3/4" wide--not the whole depth of the hem, just enough to stabilize the stitched edge. Stitch the front point miters and press that short seam open carefully. 3. Press the hem into place. Topstitch. On the brown knit, I used a twin needle. On the boiled wool, I used my industrial edgestitch foot to just catch the inner edge of the hem. 

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

Really like that it is so easy and quick. Also, it is warm and comfortable. The high neck and generous front overlap make it a cozy garment when made in a warm fabric.

Fabric Used:

The brown and gold stripe is a poly lycra knit from Hancocks. It has a bit of a crepe texture. Although it was inexpensive and it certainly isn't warm, it feels pretty good to wear and it was very easy to sew. I have been very inspired by many of the recent stripe trends, but I find it a bit challenging to find stripes in good colors for me. The very graphic black and white stripes (which I love the looks of) seem too harsh for my coloring. So I have been on the search for lower contrast stripes. I bought two yards of this 60" wide knit and I have enough left over to make a camisole to wear with the jacket. 

I could have done a better job with matching the stripes at both the side seams and on the sleeves. I need more stripe layout experience, it appears!

The second version is in a fairly stiff, but surprisingly light in weight, boiled wool knit bought from FabricMart two years ago. I think I also got some in burgundy, which I enjoyed wearing in a different sweater style but which did not flatter me! I had in mind to make this fabric into a more structured jacket, but then I wondered if it would have a kind of Eileen Fisher vibe in this simple shape. I guess it does, somewhat.

The navy wool version really is warm. A little scratchy around the top of the neck just at my hairline, but I can wear it with a mock turtleneck for cold days at home to eliminate that problem.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

I didn't change much. I cut out an XS, then removed 3/8" at each of the following places:
-Top of back armhole (tapering to original seamline by midway down the armscye)
- Top of front armhole (tapering to original seamline by midway down the armscye)
- Inner edge of back neck (redrawing curve)
- Inner edge of front shoulder
- Center back neck seam

Basically, I reduced the neck and shoulder area by another size, creating an XXS. No need to do that through the torso and hip area, I'm afraid!

I also shortened the sleeve slightly.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

I'm not sure. It is a nice, useful, quick and comfortable garment. But I'm not sure the angled front idea suits me too well. I am small in the shoulders but larger through the waist and hips. What's more, I am bigger front to back. That is, I have a "deep" figure. I am not sure this shape, with its trapeze-like projection to the front, is such a great idea for me. But I might try the other version, leaving off the hood. Maybe straight fronts would work better. And I would love the pockets!


I like these two jackets and I know I will wear them, but the shape isn't my favorite. Nonetheless, a well-conceived and executed pattern from Kwik Sew.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Simplicity 4032, Russian Princess Inspired

Shams of Communing With Fabric provided all the inspiration for this project: fabric, trim, general shape. Shamelessly copying her choice of a shoulder princess cut, I decided Simplicity 4032 would make a good starting point for my rip off.

The wonderful fabric, a treasure from FabricMart Fabrics, is a poly fleece with a sculptured design. Per Shams, I decided to use the fabric's selvedge as a matching trim. This stroke of genius, which I would never have thought of, really elevates this garment.

Pattern Description: 
Unlined jackets with front shoulder princess seams and neckline and trim options. View E shows a vest; other views have long sleeves, which feature a well-placed elbow dart.

Pattern Sizing:
8-16. How I wish this went down to a 6. I took out oodles of width across the chest!

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
My jacket is more of a sweater coat, as I lengthened View B by 11". Also, the printed fleece I used gives a different appearance than the solids shown on the pattern envelope.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
As I recall, the instructions were fine.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I think the drafting of this pattern is superb. I was surprised by how much I liked the shaping, the sleeve cap, the elbow dart and the nicely curved collar. The pattern also seems extremely versatile. The fabric notes say that regular wovens can be used, and other reviewers here have shown some great versions in wovens. I want to try a woven version soon!.

Fabric Used:
Fabulous sculpted fleece from FabricMart Fabrics. I had been admiring this fabric, but then I saw what Shams at Communing With Fabric had done with it, I had to copy her ideas.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
Hmmm, quite a lot. Some of which I can quantify, others of which I can't. First of all I tried to grade this down to about a size six by reducing the princess seams about 1/2" from the shoulder through the bust point. Nice try, but not nearly enough. I think I also narrowed the shoulders at the armhole. I did a swayback tuck of about 1" at the center back (tapered to nothing at the side seams) and added the 1" back at the hem. Lengthened the pattern 11" to make it a sweater coat length. Used a shiny satin for the undercollar and front facing, interfaced with Sew Exciting ProWeft Fusible. 

Per Shams, I cut off and used the fabric selvedge as trim for the collar and cuffs. This design change, which I would never have thought of on my own, makes the garment and has gotten so many compliments.

So, I loved the coat when it was done, but it was truly enormous in the upper body. I pinned out the excess and literally took 1" off each side of the princess seams through the waist. I had to add a shoulder dart to match that decrease on the back. After taking it in and reattaching the facings, the shoulders sit on my shoulders and the fit is comfortable and flattering. Oh, I think I also took in the center back neck seam somewhat, too.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Planning to sew it again for sure. I have been working on finalizing my alterations in the pattern tissue, but I don't want to chop off too much. Looking forward to using a woven wool next time, probably with the flounce in view D.

Well, gosh, I love this sweater coat so much, and I wear it at least three times a week. It is warm, it is comfortable and it has all of "my" wardrobe colors for the fall and winter. I absolutely love it and it is one of my top projects...ever!

My advice: shamelessly copy Shams. She will not lead you wrong!