My Sewing Machines

I began sewing over 20 years ago, with my mom showing me some basics on her Bernina 830.  It was a great machine then, as it is now.  My mom ran through a New Zealand airport with her (duty free) Bernina 35 years ago, and it was worth it!

In high school I developed chronic pain, and was home all day, so I began to quilt.  I used my mom's machine to sew a few quilts.

Pfaff 6091: She's no beauty queen but I love her!
Pfaff 6091:
My grandmother bought me my own machine, a Pfaff 6091 made in the Czech republic, as a high school graduation gift.  My grandma has since passed on, and it is a wonderful reminder of her love.

This machine has served me very well and I adore it.  The tension is great, the built-in walking foot is amazing, and she's absolutely reliable.  I replaced the light bulb in 2011, and I oil the bobbin raceway from time to time (if she starts acting up it's the first thing I do).  I brush out lint around the bobbin regularly, too.

I felt guilty in 2010 that it was past time for maintenance.  I opened up the case dust or lint!  The gears don't need lubricated; they're nylon and still had lubricant.  So I've continued to oil the bobbin race and she keeps on purring.  I love this mechanical sewing machine!

How to sew a 1/4" seam: Set the stitch to D, the right needle position.  Line your fabric up with the edge of the zig zag foot and voila!  A perfect 1/4" seam :)
I have the 1/4" presser foot but it's not wide enough to evenly feed the fabric.  It's fine for topstitching, but when seaming thinner fabrics they wiggle under the foot.  An exact 1/4" foot doesn't take turn of cloth into account, either, and after pressing the seam is too wide.

How to Replace the Light Bulb:
Stick the edge guide into the small square hole in the head (above the light bulb), angling toward the back of the machine. You should hit the top of the bulb housing. Push down on the spring-loaded housing and the bulb will peek out the bottom of the head (next to the needle). While pushing down with the edge guide, push the bulb up and turn clockwise. The bulb should now be free.

To install the new 15 watt bayonet style (not threaded) bulb, slide it up into the housing with the "dots" on the bulb's side aligned with the grooves in the housing. You may need to rotate the bulb until it's aligned correctly. Push the bulb up while pushing down with the edge guide, and turn the bulb counterclockwise. It should slide into place and hold. If not try again.

I removed the old bulb without using the edge guide but it's necessary to insert the new bulb.

Singer 66-16
Singer 66-16:
In ~2002 I saw a sewing cabinet with an old Singer at a local thrift store and bought it.  The machine sewed but the wires were chewed on.  Not knowing how to clean, much less thread it!, I used the cabinet as a table for 7 years.

Then I found some great Singer resources online (Vintage Singers group, TFSR, Sew Classic for parts), identified her as a Singer 66-16 and cleaned her up.  I took apart as many moving parts as possible, cleaned and oiled them, and reassembled.   The machine had been well cared for, but I like knowing how she works and that everything's lubricated and functioning correctly.

The motor is original to the machine and needed some work.  It was tricky to take the case apart and get the motor brushes out, but when I did I was glad I had.  The motor brushes were in backward so the springs were dragging against the commutator!  This is very not good.  I cleaned the motor, replaced the brushes correctly, and greased the grease tubes.

I bought a few replacement parts: new power cord, bobbin slide plate, belt, bobbin winder tires and bobbins.  The machine included the original box of accessories and Ziz Zag and Buttonholer attachments.  I have since purchased additional buttonhole templates.  It's definitely worth buying a vintage machine for its excellent detail work and buttonholes (with buttonholer device).  Low shank presser feet can also be found for much less than Pfaff or Bernina feet.

This is a perfect machine to keep set up for buttonholes or topstitching.  While my Pfaff is happy with any thread, the Singer demands higher quality--none of the Coats Dual Duty for her!  The outer cotton layer get shredded, then the poly layer snaps, and the machine is not happy.
The standard presser foot is much narrower than my Pfaff, and the pressure is adjustable, so it's also great for precise work.  The two machines complement each other well.  

BL 400 serger
Babylock BL400:
In Oct 2007 I bought a Babylock serger, BL400, off cragslist.  It's identical to the BL450 Lauren, only cheaper!  I'd been looking for an affordable serger for over a year.  It's a great reliable serger.  Tension settings can be tricky but I'm gradually learning how this machine "thinks".

I note the tension and stitch length used on different fabrics, a huge help.  Unfortunately I misplaced the settings in early 2011 so I'm figuring them out all over.  Starting from tens 4 on loopers is always a good beginning.

If your serger's timing is off so the needle is hitting the lower looper: loosen the screw at the looper's base and adjust the looper up or down while turning the wheel by hand.  Once the needle stops hitting the looper, and the loopers aren't hitting each other, tighten the screw and you're good to go :)  Always a good idea to double check in slow motion before cranking out the first seam.  Note: I'm not a professional, and if in any doubt please take your machine to a sewing machine repair shop.

In Jan 2012 the feed dogs started stuttering.  They were catching during the forward motion.  I removed the base plate and oiled all the metal-on-metal parts and oiling holes.  The oiling holes are openings in the joints for lubricant, like this.  There are many on this machine, some outlined in black.  Oiling helped a little but the dogs still barked.  By the next day, however, everything moved nice and smoothly.  I turned the wheel by hand to check and good thing I did: the lower looper had slid upward and was hitting the upper looper.  Tweaked it back into place, tightened down the screw, and good as new!

Atlanta Thread, now part of WAWAK, is my go-to for Gutermann, Maxi Lock, and as many other types of thread as you can imagine, with great prices and service.  For color matching thread I use a local sewing store.  I haven't ordered from WAWAK as of May 2013 but I've only heard good things.

I like that all my machines are mechanical and I can maintain them myself.  The help and information found online makes this possible and I'm grateful to everyone who shares their knowledge.
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