Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Coming Home - circa 1880s Remington Treadle Sewing Machine

1880s Remington No. 5 Treadle Sewing Machine

Oh my goodness--look what hubby Jon found in our barn Sunday afternoon!  And if you read the entire post you'll discover who owned this machine!

Beneath all the rust and crud is a circa 1880s Remington fiddle base sewing machine.  Jon found its walnut half cabinet with three drawers on a wrought iron base too--its all there.  Well almost all there. We're searching for missing bits and think we have a chance at a full restoration.

Let me just show you how far we've taken the restoration in the last two days.

Yep--that's the same machine.  Our friend Jerry Johnson (expert vintage and antique sewing machine restorer) has 15 or so hours into cleaning, oiling, and removing rust from metal parts.

Here's the throat plate, needle shaft, needle thumb screw, and presser foot, frozen in years of rust.
Can't even see the feed dogs or its cover w/screw.

Polished throat plate, feed dogs cover, presser foot, needle shaft and needle thumb screw

The vibrating shuttle and long bobbin pins are missing.  I tried a 1904 Singer shuttle and a White (New Willard) shuttle c 1930s, but both are too short for this c1880s Remington No. 5 by almost 1/4".  But I'm searching for those items.  The original needle (now clean and rust free) is round and longer in length than what I expected to see.  So, there's still quite a bit of research to do.

Thursday 12 Mar - we borrowed a leaf tension spring and shuttle from a friend Cathy to see if my husband Jon can machine a new leaf tension.  Perhaps there will be a test sew on the Remington this weekend

Our friend Norm who owns/operates Barber's Sewing Machine Repair in Stevens Point reviewed the Remington on Thursday.  He said the borrowed leaf tension is a good fit, and identified the shuttle and bobbin as as a Boye No. 13.  Although Norm has many old shuttles in his stash, he didn't have a No. 13.  He measured the original needle; closest fit is a Boye No. 8.  He had 5 of those old needles in stock and I bought all 5.

This morning I found one  No. 13 shuttle with one bobbin on Ebay.  Quickly we're finding the missing pieces.  

Removing rust from the throat plate, sewing machine oil and fine steel wool

I've been working on removing rust from smaller metal pieces with sewing machine oil and steel wool: throat plates, tension screw, stitch length screw, and pressure foot.  I can only say--it is hours and hours of sore knuckle work.  Jerry says, it takes three things to restore an old sewing machine: Patience, Patience, and Patience.

Before and after of the throat plates

Patent Dates

The hand wheel shaft was frozen solid with rust, but Jerry managed to free it up over a period of several hours using WD40.  Nudging and gentle tapping--the stuck hand wheel and the needle shaft. 

At first nothing, then a bit of movement, then a little more, and gradually we were squealing like little pigs.  Jaws dropping--astonished as he got it spinning like a top--and enjoying the precious sound of choo-ga, choo-ga, choo-ga as the needle shaft and feed dogs sang their song.  

The leaf tension located on top of the machine.  
The metal tension springs are missing, but we are hopeful to find some.  

As a newbie to the wide wide world of antique sewing machines, I'd never seen machine tension presented as anything other than a dial with tension discs and spring.  So the leaf tension is a surprise to me.

At first glance you can barely make out the name Remington
To the right is a partial view of the rusty tension guide.

Polished stitch length adjust, and bobbin winding assembly

This is a very plain approach to bobbin winding--usually you see a heart shaped governor that guides thread left to right and back again dispensing thread evenly over the bobbin pin.  So until I ask more questions, I am thinking one has to hold on to the thread to guide it back and forth to fill the bobbin.  

The hand wheel is really big--bigger than I've seen on other machines.

Jerry believes the fancy designs could be hand painted rather than decalcomania (decals).  I noticed the hand painting is very faded (nearly non-existent) on the backside and top of the machine. I suppose it is the result of sun exposure in a window where one would sit to sew?

If you have more information about this Remington No. 5, please leave us a note.  I would love to hear from you.

This weekend, I'll work on the rusty wrought iron base, while Jon is making a new pitman rod.  I think I understand this correctly, as Jon showed me  the broken pitman rod--it is a wood arm with drilled holes--and it connects to the foot pedal and treadle wheel that turns the belt to power the sewing machine.


I saved the best information for last.  Looking over the machine cabinet Jon pointed out--some child wrote in pencil on the side of one of the cabinet drawers, "Gusta was sick today."  Oh my goodness, the second owner of our house Thomas and Maren Quien had three daughters and one son:  Ragnhild, Gusta, Peter, and Bessie.  I'm guessing this  Remington No. 5 Treadle Machine belonged to Maren Quien.  I'm so very happy.  Her sewing machine has come home.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Early 1960s Nelco Sewing Machine

My early 1960s Nelco was manufactured by Riccar Factory in Japan, 
imported by Tacony Corporation, and distributed by Leon Jolson of Nelco.

Sometimes, importers and distributors selling identical models all built by Japanese factories offered several choices of brand names.  It was up to the dealers to choose between 2 or 3 brand name plates sent along in product envelopes.

I inquired about casting numbers underneath the bed,  but only one number was a significant clue--the one number under the lip said JA3 indicating Riccar Factory was the manufacturer in Japan.  My Nelco is model 1603, serial number 0070.  

She runs beautifully.  I'm calling her "Miss America."

When I bought her at a thrift shop, she was covered with an orange-y ear wax consistency of kitchen grease inside and out.  It took warm water, a bit of Murphy's oil soap, soft cloths, soft toothbrush, cotton swabs, and round toothpicks to gently remove the sticky film.  

The internal cleaning/oiling took some time to accomplish.  Supervised by my husband Jon, he enjoyed showing me areas that required more cleaning, and single drops of oil in each of the moving parts.

I let the oil sit for 24 hours.  The following day, I did short test runs.  Eeeeee--I wasn't expecting the machine to run so noisy at first, but I'd been advised to let her run for at least 5 minutes steady.  As I continued to run the machine for longer and longer periods I wasn't worried any more--the oil was getting distributed throughout the machine and sounding smooth.  I am really impressed how great it is running now.  

I tested the upper tension many times, but always ended up with intermittent loops forming underneath.  I turned the bobbin case screw clockwise 1/2 turn from 12 o'clock position to 6 o'clock position to adjust the lower tension.  The stitches are looking great now.  

My Nelco was likely imported by Nick Tacony who was still operating as Western Distributors, Inc. of St. Louis, Missouri before he changed the company name to Tacony.  Tacony Corporation makes the modern Babylock sewing, serging, and embroidery machines. 

Mr. Tacony sold my machine to a distributor Leon Jolson who started his own sewing machine company/brand name Nelco.  

Interesting history of Leon Jolson--a Polish immigrant to the U.S. in 1947--arrived penniless, but eventually developed a distributor deal with Necchi an Italian sewing machine company, and then another similar business deal with Elna, Tavaro Geneva Switzerland.  Both of those relationships dissolved unhappily, as Leon Jolson crossed the line so to speak, creating his own company NELCO derived from the letters NE from Necchi, L as in sounding like Elna, and Co.  This infruated Necchi and Elna.

Jolson was able to keep his company name NELCO after a legal suit settled out of court.  But bold Jolson continued to advertise to his dealers using every angle to mix together the names Nelco, Necchi and Elna, finest makers of sewing machines. 

Later on, rivals Elna and Nelco imported identical machines from a Japanese manufacturer. The problem was Jolson named his identical machine Nelco Prima Vera after Elna had already named their machine Elna Primula.  Elna sued Nelco.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

1916 Singer Hand Crank Sewing Machine

Side Board in the Red Dining Room

On the dining room side board is a stack of neutral fabrics and a 1916 Singer Hand Crank and Case that I purchased from First Street Antiques in Ishpeming, Michigan, owner Bill Carter.  

I first became interested in hand crank machines when my friend Jerry Johnson demonstrated his 1932 Singer model 99 at summer/fall events.  Everyone who stopped in at Jerry's booth watched him sew, joining strips of fabric  to form 2 lb. balls to loom his great rugs.  Jerry's rugs are fabulous.

1916 Singer Hand Crank Model identification:  
The serial number plate G4595778 is located on the right hand side of the machine bed.

There are no model numbers on these early Singer machines.  However, by answering  a series of questions, it is possible to identify the model quickly and accurately.  

Question 1: Electric or people powered?  - Answer: people power by hand crank

Flywheel and Hand Crank

Question 2: Drop in Bobbin, or Vibrating Shuttle?  - Answer: Vibrating Shuttle.
Vibrating Shuttle (bullet shaped shuttle) holds bar-bell shaped wound bobbin
Look at the beautiful gold decals.  Antique and Vintage Singer sewing machines and other brands featured beautiful painted and decal designs.  My 1916 machine decal pattern is "Victorian."

Question 3: Location of  bobbin winding mechanism: top right.

Bobbin Winder

Engraved End Plate is Flat with Rounded Edges

Question 4 - Comparing style of end plate - mine is a decorative engraved flat end plate with rounded edges. 

Question 5 - what is the machine bed width?  Answer:  12-5/32" wide.  

From these answers--my 1916 Singer Hand Crank Sewing Machine is a Model 128.  It is a 3/4 size machine.  

Note: Model 127 machines have a bigger machine bed width, 14-15" wide.

Singer Manufacturing Co. Logo on the case
1916 Singer Model 128, Hand Crank Sewing Machine

For fun, I put some quilt blocks on the machine--to photograph.
(a quilt I'm working on today)

First Street Antiques owner Bill Carter included an extra vibrating shuttle, and this little container of  Boye Needles.

Rolling the container- more information

Thanks for taking  look at my new machine.  
I plan to take it with me when I do shows this summer to demonstrate.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quilting the BlueJeans Quilt

Here's the finished blue jeans quilt

I laid it across the dining room table and flipped over 10 inches of the backside in order to hand stitch the binding in place. 

Let me back up a couple of photos, and show you how I quilted it on the frame.

Every job has a beginning, a middle, and an end. 

This is the beginning of the long arm quilting process.  

The dark blue fabric backing (underneath) is attached to the frame and is rolled on the leaders of the middle rail (belly bar), and the upper rail (take up rail).  Those rails advance the quilt during the quilting process. 

I like to "float" the batting and top during the quilting process.  Floating means the batting and top are laying on the backing and are not pinned to rails.  I like this method and it allows me to make minor adjustments if necessary.

Upper left of photo is the take up rail with the leader cloth rolled, then moving down you see the leader cloth with reference marks so the batting and quilt top are straight.  And as you can see, I've already started my swirl and fish tail design.  Ha Ha my new design I call Fish Feathers.  

I had such fun making the blocks for this quilt with 3 pair of old blue jeans, including pockets, and a zipper.  I put the zipper block at the bottom of the quilt.

Mamma mia, the quilt got heavy using even small portions of blue jeans along with the cotton scraps, so I opted to use polyester batting (lighter weight).  The denim shows the quilting nicely.

I didn't quilt the blue jeans pocket blocks for several reasons.  1) I wanted to keep it fun so the pockets can open.  Hey, even the zipper works on the zipper block.  2) I didn't want to risk beating up my quilting machine stitching over the blue jeans heavy duty seams.  3) Not quilting the pockets made the block puffier, and it stands out from the other blocks.  

For fun, I embroidered bugs on some of the blocks: grasshopper, bee, dragonfly.

Some blocks I hand sewed fabric yo-yos and buttons.

Here's the beast, coming off of the frame--quilting finished.

After I removed the quilt from the frame, I turned it over on the back and draped it so you could see how I make the backing wider, to make a 90 x 100 ample queen, and to accommodate the side clamp tension during the quilting process.

I like adding the swath of extra fabric--to reintroduce the colors used on the top.

Working in the studio--I am reminded one of grandpa Bert's favorite sayings, "The Early Bird Gets the Worm"

This is a great way to plow through piles of fabric scraps.  For me, it is more than using up the scraps, it's modern art
every block is different

This morning, I finished sewing another quilt top 90 x 100 Queen.  It is the arrowhead block, designed by  Anita Grossman Soloman--a class I took on  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Projects at the Old Victorian

The color is Oak Moss by Sherwin Williams.  

Last June we started scraping, priming, and repainting the house.  We painted until October, until the weather forced us to quit.  However, between all the summer rain we managed to finished most of the exterior.  

Next spring we'll finish painting the remaining high gable soffets the soft vanilla ice cream color.   And, I'll start scraping the old barn.  

I've been saying for the last three years that I'll be scraping the barn next spring--but other projects always seem to come up and we have to adjust our "to-do list."  

Here are some of the things I'm doing in the studio recently:

Today I'm working on a blue jean quilt.


Jon finally cleaned out his clothes closet and I drug a 32 gallon black plastic bag of his blue jeans up to my studio (just before our Halloween open house).  

For fun, I dug out a pair of jeans, thinking I'd try my hand at making a blue jeans purse, bag, or whatever . . . 

While chopping up the pair of blue jeans, I decided to do a crazy quilt with the blue jeans and put to good use the mounds of fabric scraps I accumulated this year.  The blocks are 12.5" sq.

I'm using the back pockets too!


In the evening, while watching TV--I like to hand sew fabric yo-yos.

I might even hoop up some of the blocks and embroider some bugs in the denim areas.

You'll have to stay tuned to see where this quilt goes.

I just love scrappy quilts.

Blue jean quilt blocks so far

Here's Scrappy Quilt #2 
I quilted it with warm and natural 100% cotton batting.  The top is sewn from a variety of cotton fabric scrap strips.  It is queen size, 90 x 100.

If you look closely you can see the long arm quilting stitch pattern.  My signature free-style design, "Squirrel Feathers."

I turned off the lights, and did some photographs so you could see the quilting stitches.

Below are photos of removing the finished quilt off of the frame.

It took 6 hours to finish the quilt after removing it from the frame.
I trimmed away the excess backing and batting.
Squared the quilt.
Made the binding fabric strips, installed the binding,
turned and hand stitched the binding. 

Did you know, it takes 17 yards of fabric to make one queen size quilt?

Look at the top rail--see the backing rolled up--see the two scrappy strips added?  

I made the quilt backing 98" wide by adding two scrappy strips.  I did this on purpose.  The strips add interest to the backing, and . . . 

having  4" of extra backing fabric on the top, bottom, and sides, is required to quilt the quilt on a frame.  

While long arm quilting, the left and right hand margins of extra batting and backing fabrics give me a place to attach machine side clamps.  The tension of the side clamps keeps all three layers straight and smooth.