Low Shank “Slim Jim” Sewing Machine Foot

A very exciting day for me today as Helen Howes has one again come up with the goods and provided me with something I have wanted for ages; a ‘Slim Jim’ presser foot. Although I knew, by definition, that it was a slender foot with equally-matched limbs it was still a pleasant surprise when I saw how dainty it actually is in the flesh and for this reason alone I have included a photograph which shows it next to the normal, hinged foot from my Singer 201k so that the two may be compared.

I have long wanted one as I often use the edge of the presser foot as a sewing guide and it is useful to have both prongs equal in width so that the foot will be a true guide in either direction.

The first thing I have tried it out on is baby run-and-fell seams and tiny, parallel pin tucks (see photograph). I predominantly sew baby clothes am working at a particularly small and dainty scale and having a foot which allows me to get right up close without the edge of the foot hitting and being distorted by the previous line of pintucking means I can make my pintucks smaller and closer than ever which I am particularly pleased about.

The only downside is one that can easily be remedied; because the foot is so tiny it makes much less contact with the feed dogs than feet which are wider and longer but this is easily rectified by simply tightening down the presser foot tension to compensate.

Singer Needlebars and a Needleclamp Darning Spring

Last year I obtained a darning spring which is fixed in place of the needleclamp. It does not carry any part number but came to me amongst a collection of other Singer attachments in a box marked as being for a Singer 66. I had hoped to be able to use it on my main machine, a 201k but couldn’t get it over the needlebar. Neither would it fit my 222k nor my 15k. I didn’t have much luck online discovering whether the model 66 (and presumably 99) had a different needlebar to the 201k, the 15k and the Featherweights so now that I have discovered the answer for myself I am anxious to share it. The spring will fit a 28k and a 99k.

The important difference in the needlebars lies not in their diameter but in the design of the needleclamp and how it affixes to the lower end of the needlebar.

The 201k, 222k and 15k all have a needleclamp into which rests the final thread guide and the end of the needlebar is designed to accommodate this. See fig 1.

The 99k uses a much simpler design in which a longer portion of the lower end is milled away to a smaller diameter and it is this which will accept the needleclamp style of darning spring (fig 4). Fig 5 shows all three together.

I shall properly review its capabilities in a future, planned blog post covering darning/free motion embroidery methods, including a number of different feet and attachments including the Stoppax darning spring which I have recently obtained.

Fig 1 – Needlebar style of the 201k and 15k (needle side).

Fig 2 – Needlebar of a 99k (needle side).

Fig 3 – Needlebar of 99k (screw side).

Fig 4 – Darning Spring (showing circular cross section)

Fig 5 – L-R: Darning Spring, 99k needleclamp, 201k needleclamp.

Zigzaggers – Singer, Ruby & Greist

Zigzaggers are potentially one of the most useful attachments to own if you have a vintage, straight-stitch machine and they can also be arguably one of the most frustrating and difficult to use so I thought that I would amass and compare a few different ones and give an honest opinion on their use.

On test were:

1. Generic, basic metal zigzagger with joining plate.

2. Greist Decorative Zigzagger

3. Singer Automatic Zigzagger, Simanco number 161157

4. Ruby Automatic Zigzagger

Not tested were YS Star Automatic Zigzagger, Singer zigzagger number 160620, Singer zigzagger number 121706 nor Singer (Swiss) zigzagger number 160990 as I do not presently own them. The Swiss Zigzagger is also incredibly difficult to find with a full complement of metal cams – which I believe number 10 in all – and the prices for even an incomplete set are presently beyond my budget. When and if I obtain any of these I will review them separately. I am keen to obtain a Singer 160620 as it has a cord guide, present on none of the models I tested today. I would also like to obtain one of the basic Singer zigzaggers 121706 on which the generic test one was based as again it has a cord guide and I am keen to compare the quality against the generic one which seemed a bit ‘clunky’ and imprecise.

Preparation: All zigzaggers were tested on the same fabric; a double thickness of medium-weight cotton twill. I did not use a darning plate nor drop the feed dogs. Where instructed, I adjusted the tension and threading path and in some instances loosened the presser foot pressure.

Generic, basic metal zigzagger with joining plate.

 

Generic Zigzagger & Joining Plate


 

Description: There is very little to describe, really. It’s a small, bent metal thing with a detachable joining plate and width adjustment made by means of a screw at the back of the attachment. It has good clearance of the fabric, perhaps too good as at times I felt that the fabric was not being fed as accurately and effortlessly as some of the other attachments although of all the zigzaggers this was the only one able to achieve a really narrow (1.5mm) satin stitch and the feed problems were minimised when the zig zag movement was kept small. Overall I felt that I had to work quite hard to keep the fabric feeding in a straight line, especially when the zig zag was a wide one. Tension-wise, there was tunnelling when the zig zag was wide but with the tension eased off to 0, the sewing speed reduced and the presser foot tension reduced the tunnelling was greatly improved.

Size: Smallest of the zigzaggers tested.

Scope: Just a simple zig zag with no additional stitch patterns but within its scope it is minutely adjustable between wide/narrow and long/short and gave the narrowest satin stitch of any of the attachments tested.

Price: Usually amongst the cheapest.

Pros: Widely available so no need to be patient or pay a lot of money.

Cons: When the zig zag was set to wide it was a little difficult to control the feed of the fabric and keep the row straight. This attachment would probably benefit from the fabric being stabilized prior to stitching. There is no cord guide in the front of the foot.

Conclusion: A good, basic zigzagger but definitely a budget model. Will do the job and do it well enough but I’d describe it as a utility model – fine for neatening seams but for topstitching you might be better to pay more and get one of the alternatives. That said, as this was at its best sewing a tight, narrow satin stitch it would be fine for producing a pronounced row of top stitching or else tiny appliquéd edging.

Greist Decorative Zigzagger.

 

Greist Decorative Zigzagger


 

Description: My favourite utility model, this is really sweet. It looks very similar to a blind hemmer. It uses small, steel pattern disks similar to the Swiss Zigzagger. There are four stitch widths marked along the side of the attachment and a sliding gauge which is moved along to correspond with these markings. The unit is easy to attach and the cams can be changed without removing the attachment from the machine. The zigzagger can also be disengaged without removing it – simply flick a tiny lever to disengage the cams and flick it forward again to reengage it.

The zigzagger includes 6 pattern disks and additionally, when used without a cam, produces a normal zig zag. Despite the title, the patterns all give utility stitches rather than decorative ones although the quality is good enough to be used for topstitching if desired:

  • Zig zag (no disk)
  • 4 stitches each side (disk marked 4,4)
  • 3 stitches each side (disk marked 3,3)
  • 2 stitches each side (disk marked 2,2)
  • 4 stitches zig, 2 stitches zag (disk marked 4,2)
  • 6 stitches each side (disk marked 6,6)
  • Blind hemming – 5 straight stitches then 1 zig zag (disk marked 5,1)

In terms of setting up, I found this to be one of the more unfussy attachments: it required no special threading nor loosening off of the tension or foot pressure. It handled the fabric firmly but gently and – above all – consistently, producing a top-quality finish with no tunnelling.

Size: Dinky.

Scope: The best utility one I tested. It gives a good selection of stitches and whilst essentially utility they are of sufficiently good quality to be used decoratively too.

Price: Varies. Mid-range.

Pros: Petite, easy to use, easy to change the cams, gives a nice finish across all widths and stitch lengths, good tension and good fabric control. Unlike some of the other models the presser foot had a central gap through which to pass the thread.

Cons: Not widely available so depends upon a chance find. Despite its title, no really decorative stitches. Cannot be adjusted to give as narrow a zig zag as the basic Singer-type one. Cams small so easily mislaid. There is no cord guide in the front of the foot and no gap in the front of the foot, meaning that the top thread must first be fished through under the foot if it is not to become caught up in the stitching.

Conclusion: This one is a keeper and I suspect will be the one I usually reach for if needing to do zig zag.

Singer Automatic Zigzagger Simanco part number 161157.

 

Singer Automatic Zigzagger


 

Description: This was the largest model tested and subject to different cams gave the widest range of decorative stitches of any tested. I tested it with the following cam sets:

Set 1 (Red, as supplied with attachment):

                 Cam 1 (Simanco 161000) Zig zag

Cam 2 (Simanco 161001) Scallop of 5 small stitches & 1 larger zig zag

Cam 3 (Simanco 161002) Domino stitch

Cam 4 (Simanco 161003) Arrowheads

    Set 2 (Ivory, Simanco part number 161008):

Cam 5 (Simanco 161004) Scallops (all small stitches)

Cam 6 (Simanco 161005) Walls of Troy

                Cam 7 (Simanco 161006) Multiple Stitch Zig Zag

Cam 8 (Simanco 161007) Icicle

    Set 3 (Blue, Simanco part number 161076):

                Cam 9 (Simanco 161067) Key

Cam 10 (Simanco 161068) Ball

Cam 11 (Simanco 161069) Block

Cam 12 (Simanco 161070) Shingle

I found that the attachment worked very well although I did have to lessen the tension to prevent tunnelling on the wider zig zag settings. The cams are easily changed without removing the attachment from the machine – the lid is flipped up and the cam simply lifted out. The attachment can be completely disabled in situ by the flick of a lever, the mechanism being on a much larger scale than the Greist model and of a different design.

Size: Big. This is the largest attachment of those tested and the cams (which are cast aluminium) are also big although this does make them less likely to become lost than the tiny steel disks of a Swiss Zigzagger or Greist Decorative Zigzagger.

Scope: Subject to additional cams, the widest of all tested.

Price: Mid-range but cam sets can be expensive as they are not so commonly seen as the basic attachments with red cam set 1.

Pros: Versatility. Of all the attachments tested this gave the widest scope of patterns both decorative and utility and was also widely adjustable both in the bight width and in the stitch length. Markings on the front of the presser foot make it easier to keep the fabric feeding true.

Cons: For me, the size was a bit of a turn-off and I would have liked a central gap in the presser foot to make threading easier. There is no cord guide in the front of the foot and no central gap in the presser foot.

Conclusion: Despite its size I did feel that of all the zigzaggers tested this one gave the widest scope of decorative and utility patterns but the difficulty of finding cams mean it is not a choice for the impatient! It is, however worth the wait.

I did not test Set 4, (Yellow) as I do not presently have it but for the sake of completeness it comprises the following patterns: Curved Mending (Simanco 161071) which is a multi-stitched wavy line, Open Scallop (Simanco 161072) which is a satin-stitched scallop, Three Step (Simanco 161073) which is a satin-stitched diagonal bar and Solid Scallop (Simanco 161074) which is a satin-stitched semi-circle.


Ruby Automatic Zigzagger.

 

Ruby Zigzagger


 

Description: This was a real surprise, being built on a totally different principle to the Greist and the Singer models but working surprisingly well. Rather than have removable cams it works by selecting a starting position on a fixed, lateral cam plate which then acts upon the rest of the mechanism to stitch out the prescribed pattern. The starting point is set by moving a pointer into one of 8 numbered holes on the cam plate. I found that the fabric fed very well and that there was no tunnelling. It was easy to change between patterns mid-way through a row although the pattern width could not be altered. The instructions advise that the tension is slightly lowered and the tension spring ignored when threading and doing so I found that the stitch quality was impressive; very consistent and it was relatively easy to feed the fabric and keep the line straight.

The numbered holes used to select the stitch pattern on the Ruby Zigzagger.

Size: Medium-sized, similar to a basic, non-template buttonholer.

Scope: Surprisingly wide. Offered a good selection of patterns both decorative and utility. 8 decorative patterns, plus basic zig zag.

Price: Mid-range.

Pros: No cams to lose. Compact and easy to use.

Cons: Uncommon, so availability depends upon a chance find. Also, no means to change the width of the patterns although the stitch length could of course be altered. Cannot be disabled in situ. There is no cord guide in the front of the foot and no central gap in the presser foot.

Conclusion: Despite its limitations I love it.

Singer Feet & Attachments – Simanco Numbers

8879 Felt Spool Circles

15429 Corder – Left Toe

25027 Belt Hook

25525 Bias Gauge

25527 Seam Guide

25537 Large Screwdriver

25539 Stiletto

26088 Darner, Flat-work

26399 Cording Attachment

26538 Embroiderer (2-thread)

32773 Standard Foot

35207 Presser foot with Adjustable Gauge

35505 Embroiderer (3-thread)

35776 Darner, Stockings

35857 Rolled Hemmer

35931 Adjustable Hemmer

35932 Quilting Guide

35985 Tubular Trimmer

36067 Braiding Foot

36088 Darner, Flat-work

36333 Flange Hemmer

36583 Tuck Marker

36594 Multi-slot Binder with guide pins

36865 Edge Stitcher

45321 Standard Foot

45750 Bobbin Case (Featherweight)

45785 Bobbins (Featherweight)

86662 Buttonhole Attachment (fully adjustable, black & white)

86718 Buttonhole Attachment (red & cream)

86742 Ruffler

91245 Multi-slot Binder

120319 Quilting Guide

120378 Small Screwdriver

120598 Ruffler

120616 Belt Punch

120687 Hemstitcher & Picot Edger Attachment

120842 Rolled Hemmer

120855 Rolled Hemmer

120862 Oil Can

120993 Pinker Cutter Blade, 28-tooth

121021 Pinker, Machine Operated

121079 Singercraft Guide

121094 Darning Foot (Spring)

121143 Pinker Cutter Blade, 42-tooth

121151 Finger Guard

121170 Shirring Plate

121242 Pinker Cutter Blade, no teeth

121255 Singercraft Fagoter

121309 Feed Cover Plate (Featherweight)

121318 Material Gripper

121379 Pinker, Hand Operated

121387 Hemstitcher & Picot Edger Attachment

121441 Gatherer Foot

121464 Bias Binder

121547 Underbraider

121614 Blind Stitch Braider

121632 Needle Threader

121634 Needle Threader & Ripper

121638 Zigzag Attachment

121713 Skirtmarker Yardstick

121714 Skirtmarker Yardstick Base

121718 Presser foot with Adjustable Gauge

121795 Buttonhole Attachment 

121877 Zipper Foot (wide)

125035 Old-style Zipper Foot

125035 Corder – Right Toe

160359 Multi-slot Binder

160439 Skirtmarker

160506 Buttonhole Attachment (white knob)

160616 Blind Hem Attachment

160620 Zigzag Attachment

160668 Buttonhole Templates

160743 Buttonhole Attachment (white knob) slant shank

160854 Adjustable Zipper Foot

160985 Automatic Zigzagger (red cams)

161127 Adjustable Zipper Foot (narrow hinged)

161172 Seam Guide

161294 Large Screwdriver (plastic handle)

161295 Small Screwdriver (plastic handle)

171071 Darning Foot (Featherweight)

171074 Darning Hoop (Featherweight)

381116 Professional Buttonholer

489500 Buttonhole Attachment (plastic-bodied)

489510 Buttonhole Attachment (plastic-bodied) slant shank

…to be added to…

Simanco 121094 Singer Darning Foot – the tiny one.

I recently acquired one of these in a box of attachments labelled for a Singer 66k so having located the presumed missing spring from within the folds of the box I put it back together and decided to try it.  To begin with, I had a LOT of trouble with it and was profoundly disappointed as I had harboured such high hopes for it but I’m extremely relieved to report that I got there in the end and as is so commonly the case with Singer items it was user error.

I prepared and hooped a sample of cotton fabric and tried the foot on the 201k.  No joy.  The ring at the bottom of the foot didn’t rest on the fabric but hovered about 4mm above it so there was no obvious purpose for the spring at all and the stitches were mainly skipped.  I checked the threading of the upper and lower…all fine.

I came over to my PC and did a little digging on the internet and found out that it was designed for use on a Featherweight.  No problem; I took out my 222k and set it up with the foot.  Same thing.  By now I was really scratching my head so headed back to the internet.  Finally, I thought that I had found a clue on the Needlebar website.  The foot was shown there with a note stating that it was produced for use on the Featherweight 221, initially to be used with feed dog cover 121309 and latterly with 108002.

This seemed to offer an explanation.  Both my 201k and my 222k have droppable feed dogs but the 221 uses a feed dog cover so perhaps it was this feed dog cover which raised the bed by those crucial millimetres.

I was still perplexed though especially as none of the online sales sources stressed the need for a feed plate and furthermore most of them stated that it could be used on any low-shank side clamping machine with equal success.

Taking the foot off the machine I noticed something unusual about the clamp.  Most feet slot straight on to the presser bar and don’t have any vertical play but this one was different.  It had a slot shaped like a capital ‘T’ which allowed the foot to be mounted higher or lower than the central point, presumably to allow the foot to rest lightly on fabrics of all different thicknesses.

By now it was late, so I decided to leave it and try again in the morning.  After breakfast I was careful to mount the foot as low on the presser bar as was possible.  The ring now lay lightly on the surface of the fabric as it ought to and the result was perfect!  The spring twitched almost imperceptibly and the stitch was gorgeous!  Once again I am in awe of a Singer attachment.

A close-up of the tiny darning foot.

See how, with the foot incorrectly fitted, there is a gap below it, even with the presser foot lever lowered. This results in skipped stitches.

With the foot correctly fitted, it lightly skims the fabric and the stitch and control is the best I have experienced with any darning foot.

Note the gap in the foot below the presser foot screw. This is the bottom of the shaped slot allowing for vertical adjustment which I mentioned in the text.

For comparison, this is the foot photographed next to the normal, straight stitch foot. Note how small it is and also the shaped slot allowing for vertical movement when securing the foot in place.

Singer Stocking Darner 35776 used with Simanco 171071 Darning Foot

One of the best parts about collecting Singer attachments is that with the odd exception (the Hemstitch & Picot Edger) they are all utterly practical.  So, in harmony with the resurgence of interest in make-do-and-mend necessitated by the ongoing financial squeeze my most recent acquisition is a Singer Stocking Darner.  Yes, I can do it by hand but unless I take tremendous time and effort (which is above the worth of the article being darned) the result is not as smooth and comfortable as a machine-made darn.  I have, up until now, used my Singer Featherweight 222k with its own darning hoop and foot (Simanco 171074 and 171071 respectively) or else a normal, wooden hand-embroidery hoop and foot 171071 on my 201k.

The trouble with a normal hoop is that it is almost impossible to keep the rest of the sock from contracting back over the area one is trying to sew so in addition to trying to lightly move the hoop around the darn area ones fingers must also splay apart and keep the offending fabric at bay…so my attention turned to a Stocking Darner.

What a joy!  It is effortless in use. 

Before you start, make sure that the bobbin thread is up through the needle plate and then take off the presser foot.  You might find it easier to get the hoop into position if you also take the needle out.  Drop or cover the feed dogs (although to be honest on my 201k I just turn the stitch length to 0 and leave them up).

Now take the spring off the external rim of the darner, turn all the hooks inwards and with your left hand inside your sock, hole over the palm, grasp the darner through the sock, centralize the hole to be darned and then attach the spring to hold the fabric taut.  Once this is done, turn the rest of the sock down off your hand and onto the darner and turn the hoops outwards over the rim so that they pull the rest of the sock upwards and outwards, beyond and well out of the way of the stitching area.  If it proves awkward getting the hoop under the needle you may find it easier to turn one or two of them back in again to avoid scratching your machine bed.

Once the hoop is in place on the machine, attach the darning foot and if you took the needle out earlier, put it back in again now.

Place both hands lightly on the darner and move it gently, darning just as you would with a normal hoop.  That’s really all there is to it.  When you’ve finished, cut the threads and you’re done.  You might need to remove the foot and the needle again before removing the hoop but the result is well worth the inconvenience.  The benefit over a hand worked one (by which I mean one which largely draws the edges together rather than the longer, weaving method) is that it is perfectly flat and this really is terribly important with socks.

Another triumph from Singer.

The sock, the darner and the darner spring.

The sock in place and ready to darn. This is the side which will be face down against the machine bed.

This is the uppermost side, the one which will be facing upwards when the item is being darned.

This is a close-up of the darning foot in place. It will have to be removed before the hoop is put in position as the hoop is too bulky to pass beneath it.

This is the darner in place, ready to sew. Note how the hooks on the darner are folded back on themselves, holding the rest of the sock clear of the sewing area.

A close-up of the area about to be darned, showing the bobbin thread drawn up through the foot ready to start sewing. This prevents the bobbin thread being oversewn underneath which can be unsightly.

The darn being sewn up on the machine.

The completed darn.

Imitation Hemstitcher Attachment

 My curiosity into the different methods of producing a hemstitch continues with the Singer Imitation Hemstitcher, Simanco Part Number 120687.

This is a large presser foot which attaches in the normal, low-shank manner to the left hand side of the presser bar, with the bulk of the attachment seated to the right; that is within the harp of the sewing machine.  It features a small needle hole through which the needle passes and immediately in front of this a raised metal cushion over which the top layer of fabric is fed and it is the fact that the two layers are then held some 5mm apart from one another when the stitch is formed that forms the ladder stitch. 

The first thing which caught my attention was that as the fabric must be fed into place within and around the foot before stitching commences it is not easy to start the hemstitching from the very edge of the fabric and although I may be able to figure this out later it is not immediately obvious how this may be easily accomplished.  The Hemstitch Fork by Stoppax is much simpler in this respect.

Stitching with the foot in place was very easy.  As is usual with hemstitching I loosened the upper tension right off as the ladder stitch looks much neater without the lockstitch happening half way across the ladder ‘rungs’.  It was simple and quick to stitch a long length of hemstitching (simpler than with the Stoppax fork which needs to be moved along periodically) but because it is not so simple to keep the fabric evenly taut as one stitches, I felt that the overall stitch quality was nowhere near as consistent and well-tensioned as that obtained by the hemstitch fork.  With the fork, it (the fork) is kept held up taut against the fold in the fabric which makes it very easy to guide the fabric whilst maintaining an even tension but because the imitation hemstitcher parts two layers of fabric the edge of which is open on the right hand side, it is difficult to maintain as even a stitch.

Easy, but I still prefer a hemstitching fork.

The Imitation Hemstitcher attached to the Singer 201k

See how the metal 'cushion' at the front of the attachment parts the fabric layers ahead of the needle. Note also the small gap (just seen at the back of the photo) before the hemstitch seam commences.

The finished hemstitching, top stitched on either side to keep the seam open.

All content copyright HA Lewington 2010

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