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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright of the blog owner 2013

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.

Copyright of the blog owner 2012

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.

Copyright of the blog owner 2011

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 Tuck Marker

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…

Copyright of the blog owner 2011

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.

Copyright of the blog owner 2011

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.

Copyright of the blog owner 2011

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.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Singer 222 Darning and Embroidery Hoop

This is a review of the Singer Darning and Embroidery Hoop.

  • Part number: 171074;
  • Darning Foot Part Number: 171071;
  • Dimensions: Overall length 125mm, external diameter 63mm, internal diameter 50mm.

A two-part metal hoop comprising a sprung bottom section over which is stretched the fabric and a top section into which it snaps to secure the fabric and keep it evenly taut.  The top section also features a long handle with a slot down the middle along which runs a small rivet whose underside is shaped to hook securely into a rectangular hole to the right hand side of the chromed needle plate/bobbin cover of the 222k.

This embroidery hoop is designed just for the 222k – the aperture into which the attachment is secured does not exist on the 221k, which has the shorter, half-moon plate/cover more common to the Singer family.  Of course it is possible to use the hoop without anchoring it but as the correct use of the hoop is to gently guide it with the fingertips it is much easier to control the hoop’s progress with the end tethered securely as it can then, when in use, only describe a small circular movement appropriate for the surface area contained within the hoop.

I tried the darning hoop with a number of different darning solutions including a Hopping Foot 80251 and the one which came to me included with the hoop, the Darning Foot 171071.

I could not try the Spring Needle Clamp as it is not compatible with the needle bar of a 222k, nor with a Stoppax Darning Attachment and a Darning Spring as I have yet to acquire those two items.

The hopping foot did not give me sufficient room for manoeuvre within the cramped confines of the foot so the foot 171071 was the best.

Well, I say it was the best…it was an absolute beast to get the foot attached with the hoop in place but if you put the foot on first then you cannot move the foot high enough to slip the hoop underneath it and into its working position. (Edited to add: Further tests confirm that the tiny 121094 is perfect for use in this context.)

The hoop was, in use, ok and worked well but would require a great deal of practice and some very steady foot control before I would attempt anything like monogramming with it.  For this, I prefer to use hand embroidery and a larger, wooden hoop and for larger machine-mended darns I prefer to use the same wooden hoop as I do for my hand embroidery.  Depending on the nature of the darn, I also prefer to use the normal foot and pivot the work so that I am constantly sewing forwards across the area I am darning.  This degree of freedom is only possible if the hoop itself is free.

But back to the 222k Darning Hoop, what is my conclusion?  Well, if I’m honest I think it’s a bit of a gimmick.  For the size of darn it handles I can do it quicker by hand.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Singer Bias Binder Gauge

This has been on the end of my wanted list for some time; one of those little items which, while I won’t bust a gut to obtain one I would be happy to try out just to satisfy my curiosity.

It wasn’t an auspicious start as it was a little bit bent and I first had to fiddle about a little with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers to open the fold sufficiently to admit the tip of any scissors I possess.

I’d better explain.  The bias gauge is a tiny device fashioned from a narrow piece of doubled-over steel which ends in a splayed section which is bent to form a slot into which fits the end of the bottom blade of a pair of scissors.  The final piece is a tiny piece of blued steel which acts as a ‘stop’ which may be slid up the length of the gauge, controlling the width of the cut fabric. There are three markings on the gauge: F, B & C, marking the suggested widths for using as Facings, Bindings and Cording/Piping.

If you’re having trouble following this, I promise that photos will follow eventually but it’s been snowy today and I much prefer snow to fiddling around in Photoshop®.

Well the first problem I encountered was, as I mentioned, to get the gauge to fit onto the end of my scissors.  Modern scissors are very much thicker in the blade than older ones but luckily I had a pair of vintage ones which fitted ok.  It did, however, keep flicking off which was a bit of a pain, and if I jammed it on harder it interfered with the scissors closing properly.

All became simpler when I realised that the error was born of my own bad habit of cutting small items up off the table instead of flat upon it and as soon as I placed the fabric back down upon the table and cut the strip with the blade (and the bottom of the attachment) resting upon the table, all was well and the strip was cut with ease.

The gauge is a quick and accurate method of cutting bindings and I recommend it.  Just be sure that you have some fairly narrow bladed shears or be prepared to jemmy the gauge open a little.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

More Hemstitching

I’ve been asked to cover hemstitching in more detail so I’m going to cover three of the most common finishes: a narrow hemmed, open hemstitch; a wider version of the same and finally a closed hemstitch which offsets the hemstitch against the background fabric.

Hemstitching done with the hemstitching fork gives a similar result to drawn threadwork although in its method it is more similar to faggoting in that it uses a thread to span two fabric pieces rather than punch and stitch a pierced design through the fabric.

There is more than one brand of hemstitching fork available including the Stoppax, the Nu-Way and one marketed as being for the Husqvarna which is a modern equivalent of the Nu-Way.  Only the Husqvarna one is still in production so if you see one of the older style ones at a reasonable price it is worth snapping it up.

For a bold hemstitch, use a long stitch length and bring the upper tension right down, even to zero.  This will give a widely spaced, deep hemstitch and give a nicely proportioned finish, should be worked with a thickish thread and a thick needle.  If a fine, narrow hemstitching is required, use a fine needle, a slender thread, a smaller stitch length and a normal (or even slightly tightened) thread tension.  If in doubt, just experiment with some spare fabric scraps until you get a finish you’re happy with.

To do a narrow-hemmed hemstitched row, fold the fabric around the hemstitch fork, place it under the foot, looped end towards you and sew down the gap between the parallel bars of the attachment.  When you reach the end, remove the fabric and the hemstitcher from the machine and, taking care not to pull the threads when you do so, slide out the hemstitch fork.  This will leave a loosely stitched tunnel and it is this tunnel which is slashed open and the sides smoothed apart to reveal the stitches.  For best results, press this open before continuing.

Sewing along the gap in the hemstitch fork.

The loose stitch line securing the fold.

Cutting the fold open. Scissors are better than a seam ripper if you have some with sufficiently narrow blades.

Once pressed open, it is necessary to deal with the raw edges.  For the sake of this tutorial I have done a narrow hem, using my narrow zipper foot to get in nice and close to the edge of the hemstitching while still having good access to the fabric.  An alternative would be to finish this with braid or a decorative satin stitch which would seal in the raw edge out of view.

The seam cut open and ready to press and stitch down.

Sewing a narrow hem to neaten the edges.

The finished hemstitch. I have used contrasting thread to better show the detailing but would usually choose thread to match the fabric.

A wider hem can be achieved in just the same way as described above but first sew a line of basting stitches to act as the fold against which the hemstitching fork is pressed when in use.  The fold is then cut open in the usual way, the basting thread removed and the item pressed.  The raw edges can then be turned in and sewn down as before.  In this case I find it useful to also sew a line of stitching close to the edge of the hemstitching to keep the finish crisp and neat.

Line of basting stitches against which to place the hemstitch fork for a wider margin.

The line sewn along the central gap, with the outer edge formed by the line of basting stitch. The basting can now be removed.

The basting thread removed, the fold is cut open and folded back ready to be pressed and neatened.

Topstitching a line close to the edge of the hemstitching. This will be repeated on the other side.

Close-up of the hemstitching.

The wider margins shown hemmed and sewn down. This forms a handy margin into which to place some decorative topstitching.

It is not necessary to cut open the fold after the hemstitch fork is removed.  If preferred it may be folded and pressed back and a line of stitching placed close to each side of the hemstitching to secure the fold behind the hemstitching.  You might like to thread in some braid or ribbon to give a contrast, too.

The folded edge, hemstitched and ready to fold & press back.

Topstitching, worked as closely as possible to the ends of the hemstitching, gives a neat finish and anchors the fold securely behind the exposed hemstitching.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Singer Hemstitcher & Picot Edger

The Singer Hemstitcher and Picot Edger is often mooted as one of the rarer, ‘must have’ attachments but in truth my experiences with it were disappointing. It’s not that it doesn’t work; it does. The difficulty lies in obtaining easily a result which is both neat and evenly tensioned on both sides. Because only a single needle is in play, it is necessary to make two passes at the hemstitched row; the first one pierces the holes and zig zags a row of stitching which enters each hole and pulls back and secures it open on the right hand side. When the end of the row is reached, it is essential to stop with the piercer depressed through the fabric so that it acts as a pivot around which the fabric is swivelled through 180 degrees. The second pass is then sewn, again forming the same zig zag, with the needle now drawing back and securing the second side of the hemstitching. The piercer should reenter the same holes as it made on the previous pass.

That’s the theory. In practice it is difficult to get the zig zag to form an exact mirror image of the one made in the previous pass so the holes often appear a little skewed and there are often stray threads snaking diagonally across the corners of the holes formed (insomuch as a circle can have corners). The result is not as neat as the rows sewn on a proper, dedicated hemstitching machine, the majority of which use twin needles.

The attachment is not very adjustable; because of the necessity for the piercer to drop at a predetermined point in the zig zag’s passage it is not possible to adjust the stitch length. It is possible, however, to fine tune the zig zag width by adjusting the position of the piercer in relation to where the needle falls although the primary purpose of this adjustment is to allow the needle to fall exactly in the right place – to the right hand side of the pierced hole. The piercer can also be adjusted forwards/backwards to properly allow it to pass through the hole in the throat plate, which is a raised plate screwed in place over the feed dogs, replacing the usual feed dog plate.

When finding these attachments it is essential to make sure that you have the right throat plate for your machine. If, however you have a 99/66, a 201/15, a 127/8 and a 221/222 then you don’t need to worry because unless your 66 is a 66-1 whatever you get it’ll fit one of the above.

The attachment itself is part number 121387 and is the same for all the models listed below.
The extra long thumb screw is 51347A and is the same for all models listed below.

The throat plates vary and are numbered as follows:

Class 15 & 201: 121388

Class 66* & 99: 121389

Class 101: 121390

Class 127 & 128: 121391 (including screw 202J)

Class 221: 121392

* with the exception of the 66-1.

I tried this attachment on a double layer of stiff calico and a double layer of a cotton twill. Both gave less than perfect results, even after as many adjustments as I was able to make. I don’t doubt for a minute that the fabric might better behave if it were starched stiffly first but I cannot guarantee that the result would, after washing, be any better than had the fabric not been starched as the untidy result seemed firmly lodged in the ability to get the stitch rows catching the hole in the same position rather than the ability for the needle to catch and draw back the hole.

One more hint if you are still determined to buy and try one for yourself: the rubber sleeves which feed the fabric are often perished or at best shiny and not able to feed the fabric. These can be easily replaced by the same heat-shrink insulation tube used to improve the safety of old wiring.

Me? I’m going to stick with my Stoppax Hemstitching Fork.

New rubber soles for the feet. My husband shrunk on a double layer of heat-shrink insulation tube and this works very well.

Hemstitcher on the machine, showing the piercer correctly positioned in line with the hole in the throat plate.

Photo showing the correct position for the piercer in relation to the turned and pressed hem.

Photo (blurry, I’m afraid) showing the resultant hemstitched rows.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Singer (Non-Template) Buttonhole Attachment

This is a review for the non-template Buttonholer; the old type with the bight, zig zag and buttonhole length adjustable by wing nuts. The stitch length is adjusted by using a screwdriver to turn a pointer from short to long.

The attachment (in its completed state rather than constituent parts) has the part number 86662.

I bought this attachment as I was curious to compare it against the Griest template type attachment I already owned and I further justified its purchase by the additional versatility it offers by allowing you to change the cutting width.

Ideally this should be just wide enough to allow the buttonhole to be cut open without cutting the stitches but not so wide that there is sufficient fabric to fray once this is done. The template style buttonholers do not allow this to be adjusted so on thin fabrics especially it is certainly an advantage to be able to adjust this.

Having said that, because the attachment is indeed so adjustable it is essential to do some test buttonholes on some scraps until you are happy that the cutting width, the bight (zig zag width) and the stitch length are all correct. Having the stitch length correct is worth taking your time over as this is the one which controls how densely the zig zag stitch is created – for thick fabrics which will fray easily you will probably want to have this set to a fairly close stitch but a long zig zag width but for fine fabrics you will need to have the density reduced so that the button hole is soft and not like a solid mass of thread. Unlike the other adjustments which are made by sliding a wing nut, it is adjusted using a screwdriver to move a pointer between L, N and S (long, normal, short).

Once you have made a buttonhole with which you are happy, these adjustments will stay put until you change them so there is no need to recalibrate the settings ahead of each in a long row of buttonholes but it is definitely worth taking the time to do some test pieces first and get this right. It is not idiot proof and if you are whack the bight size right up to maximum and the cutting width down to minimum then the two sides of the buttonhole will overlap and you won’t have anywhere to cut the buttonhole open at all!

Use the right needle and thread for the fabric and this will give you as nice a buttonhole as any I’ve seen. The maximum is about 1 1/16″ (the same as the Griest template ones) but it is possible to make them longer by moving the plate forwards before the attachment sews the end bar – there are increments marked on the plate to make it easy to measure by how much you need to move the plate forwards. Full directions for this are given in the instruction leaflet.

Overview of the attachment showing the adjustment screws for bight, cutting width and (the screw in the triangular aperture on the side of the attachment) the stitch length.Photo showing the plate in which the buttonhole is sewn and the small ‘pusher’ which helps push the fabric back flat after each stitch is formed.

Photo showing the buttonhole length adjustment and the wing nut by which the attachment is turned through its stitch cycle.

Photo showing the plate in which the buttonhole is sewn and the small ‘pusher’ which helps push the fabric back flat after each stitch is formed.

Photo showing the resultant buttonhole sewn with an average cutting width on a double thickness of cotton twill curtain lining. This buttohole has been worked around twice and judging by this photo the machine would have benefited from having the top tension loosened a bit.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Griest/Greist Template Buttonholer Attachment

Griest buttonhole attachments were made in the following model numbers, each for a different style of machine:

#1 Side Screw Clamping – Singer, White, Brother, Morse, Atlas, Kenmore, Domestic, Free Westinghouse and most all imported straight stitch sewing machines.

#2 Top Clamping – White, Kenmore, Domestic, Majestic, Franklin, Worlds, Dressmaker and all Rotary machines made by White & Domestic Sewing Machine Corp.

#3 Top Clamping – Kenmore (49, 71, 76), Free Rotary, Free-Westinghouse, New Home (Rotary), Stratford, Most all machines made by Free & New Home Sewing Machine Company.

#4 Top Clamping – Eldredge, National, Montgomery Ward, All machines made by National Sewing Machine Company.

#5 Slant Needle – Singer only.

#6 Low Bar (1/2”) – Left Needle Position Zig Zag and Automatic Machines.

#7 High Bar (1”) – Left Needle Position Zig Zag and Automatic Machines.

#8 All Pfaff Sewing Machines except models 139, 239, 1221 and 1222.

#9 All Necchi Straight Stitch and all Low (1/2”) Centre Needle Position Zig Zag and Automatic Machines.

#10 All Necchi, Pfaff (Models 139 and 239) and High Bar (1”) Centre Needle Position Zig Zag and Automatic Machines.

Low and High Bar are different terms for low and high shank.
Left Needle Position and Centre Needle Position refer to the resting position of the needle before it commences a straight stitch. In other words, is the needle at the centre of the slot in the needle plate or is it to the left of it.  The model numbers are printed on the end of the box.

In use, these are definitely the easiest button hole attachments with which to achieve a well tensioned and nicely balanced buttonhole.   The attachment comes with five templates, one of which is already in place in the machine.  These standard templates are 5/16”, 5/8”, 13/16”, 11/16” for straight buttonholes and 11/16” for the keyhole type.  Additional templates are available as 3/8”,  1/2”,  15/16” for the straight type, 5/8” for the keyhole and an eyelet style.  Each template has a guide on the back of it so that the button may be placed against it to reckon the right one to use.

The stitch width may be adjusted by moving the slider on the side of the attachment to “N” for narrow, “W” for wide and any point in between.  It is usual to use a narrow setting for small buttonholes and a wider one for longer buttonholes as this is generally more in keeping, visually, with the overall proportions of the finished buttonhole but you may, of course, adjust this accordingly if your fabric is, for example, thin and your button large.

A feed dog plate is provided with the machine but as this affects the amount of clearance under the attachment, do just dispense with it and drop the feed dogs if this is possible on your machine.

It is possible to make a larger buttonhole than the size of the template will allow.  This is done by twisting the adjustment knob which moves the template through its cycle and stopping when the needle position is in line with the second line from the front of the cloth clamp on the left hand side as you face it.  This is now your new starting position and when you have run the attachment through its cycle until it reaches the same point on the opposite side to where you started, stop with the needle down in the fabric, carefully raise the presser foot lever.  1″ of your buttonhole is accounted for in what you have already done so you need now to decide how much bigger it needs to be.  Each line on the cloth clamp represents and extra 1/8 “ on the buttonhole.  If two lines will suffice, move the adjustment knob clockwise to cycle around the open end, down the left hand side (as you look at it), around the bottom and then take care to stop when the needle is level with the chosen guide line on the clamp.  Drop the presser foot lever and continue to sew.  This will allow the correct extra length to be added to the resultant buttonhole.  That may sound fiddly, but is an excellent way of achieving an extra-long buttonhole where some modern machines would certainly fail to allow it, guided (and limited) as they are by the diameter of the button which  will fit in the buttonhole foot.

The Griest Buttonholer and templates.

The standard templates supplied with the attachment.

The buttonholer in use.

The finished buttonhole.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Hemmer Feet

This is a set of hemmer feet which, along with a quilting guide, may be attached to a side-clamping, low shank machine using the cording foot which accompanies the attachments but which features a thumbscrew at the back of the foot which secures the hemmers in place.  The cording foot itself attaches to the side-clamp in the usual way.

The hemmers themselves work much as you would expect, and whilst they are a bit fiddly to get started, a bit of spare thread knotted to the fabric at the start of the proposed hem edge gives something to hold on to when initially coaxing the fabric around the curve of the attachment.  Once started, they are wonderful and give an excellent, neat finish.

The Hemmers and Quilting Guide lined up on the 201k machine bed.

One of the hemmers in place on the 201k, ready to sew.

The hemmer in use.

The finished hem.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Stoppax Hemstitching Fork

This is by far my favourite way to create hemstitching.   I also have a Singer Hemstitcher & Picot Edger attachment but this is far simpler to use and gives, to my mind a much more predictably neat result.

The Stoppax Hemstitching Fork

The hemstitch fork positioned and ready to sew.

To use it, the hemstitch fork is inserted into a fold of or between two layers of fabric with the closed end facing the user and the needle positioned to stitch between the parallel bars of the attachment.

The fabric is then folded and pressed back (slitting the fold open if necessary) and then narrow-hemmed down on either side of the topstitched row or else finished with some ornamental topstitching as shown here.

Pressed open and finished with some decorative satin stitching from the Bernina 830.

Copyright of the blog owner 2010

Vintage Singer Feet Identification

These are all feet used by straight stitch Singer sewing machines.

1: Four-position Ruffler (Simanco 86642)
2: Two-position Ruffler (Simanco 120290)
3: Tuck Marker (Simanco 36583)
4: Stoppax Hemstitching Fork
5: Rolled Hemmer (Simanco 35857)
6: Hopping Foot (Pfaff 80251)
7: Gathering/Shirring Foot (Simanco 121441)
8: Low shank, multi-slot binder with guide pins (Simanco 160359)
9: Standard issue binder (Simanco 121464)
10: Multi-slot binder (Simanco 55414)
11: Quilting Guide & Foot (Simanco 35932)
12: Adjustable Hemmer (Simanco 35931)
13: Zipper Foot (Simanco 121877)
14: Hinged, narrow zipper foot (Simanco 161127)
15: Cording foot and for use with 16-21 (Simanco 25510)
16: Quilt Guide (use with 15) (Simanco 25515)
17-21: Hemmers (use with 15) (Simanco 25509, -11, -12, -13 & -14)
22 & 23: Seam Guide & bed screw (Simanco 25527)
24: Underbraider (Simanco 121547)
25: Hinged straight stitch foot (Simanco 45321)
26: Darning foot (Simanco 171071, cannot be used with Featherweights unless thread cutter is removed)
27: Edge Stitcher (Simanco 36865)

Copyright of the blog owner 2010