The Sewing Place

Techniques on a really old machine

Emerion

Techniques on a really old machine
« on: October 27, 2020, 10:11:27 AM »
Good morning,
I have an old hand-cranked Singer, which does straight stitches only, and I love it. I find that sewing advice online, for example on YouTube, assumes that you have a modern machine, which can do all the fancy stitches. This is understandable of course. I muddle through, using my tiny user manual and adapting what I see online as best I can. But as a beginner, it would be great to have a thorough guide to what can be done, and how. YouTube has a few basic “how to operate” videos for old machines, but I haven’t found anything more detailed.  I’m hoping someone on this forum might be able to recommend a resource for older machines, like an old but still available book, or specialist forum. Any ideas?
Machine: Singer 99K 1954
Ability: Plenty of room for improvement

LeilaMay

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2020, 10:26:14 AM »
Good morning, nice to meet a fellow old machine enthusiast  :)
What exactly did you want to learn to do? If you have a set of attachments for your straight stitch machine you could roll hems, blind stitch, even zig-zag.
Check out this website, you'll find lots of info on what feet are available for old Singers. And let us know what kind of thing you're after doing?
http://www.helenhowes-sewingmachines.co.uk/

Best wishes
Leila

StitchinTime

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2020, 10:50:56 AM »
There's a free PDF of a Singer sewing booklet from 1955 on the ISMACS website. This has been written for straight stitch only machines and goes through different techniques that can be done with the machine and various attachments.

dolcevita

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2020, 13:55:41 PM »
The old machines can do lovely top stitching. I recently used my old (electric) Singer for topstitching on some jeans I made. The stitch was much more attractive than the one made by my modern Pfaff. I did a side by side comparison and the Singer won easily.

The only things that are hard to deal with on a straight stitch only machine are knits because of the stretch stitch that they benefit from, but even then you can still get away with it if you stretch the seam as you sew. This turns it into a slight zigzag when it relaxes back. You could certainly sew ponte roma fabric on it as this is quite stable and as the edges don't fray, you don't need to worry about neatening the seam allowances, either. Ponte can be used to make dresses, skirts, trousers, tops, etc. It's very versatile and a well-behaved fabric, ideal for a beginner.

Emerion

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2020, 13:59:14 PM »
Well, I’m chiefly interested in altering my clothes to fit, and am aware that you’re supposed to serge or zig-zag stitch knitted fabric for example. I’m assuming I’ll be hand stitching those? That’s my main concern at the minute - how to stitch different fabrics. Also, when to use pinking shears, or bias tape etc when someone with a modern machine might have an easier method. I’m not making myself very clear,  but obviously like all beginners, I don’t know what I don’t know! My mum was an excellent seamstress. One of my biggest regrets is not showing an interest when I had the chance! Much like anyone else I expect. I intend have a practice on the attachments that I have on some old fabric. I did try a dinky little hemmer attachment which looks like it’s made to hold a doll’s bouquet of flowers, and made a complete botch of it, but no doubt with practice.... 🙂

Just about to post this, when In saw dolcevita’s reply - well that’s hopeful. It sounds easy to mess up though, thank you all.
Machine: Singer 99K 1954
Ability: Plenty of room for improvement

dolcevita

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2020, 14:13:42 PM »
Try not to overthink things with the machine - it's fine to get familiar with the attachments, but these are tools and if they aren't the right tool for the job, it doesn't matter if you don't use them. For example, my modern machine does some embroidery and quilting stitches but I use them rarely if at all because I don't really wear embroidered clothes and quilting isn't my thing. I know that they are there if I need them, but if I need to practice a technique, it will be one that's relevant to a project.

Your vintage machine would be better than handstitching for many things, you just need to practice before committing yourself to the actual garment. Rather than seeking out a sewing machine manual/videos, a book on traditional sewing techniques would be helpful. I have the Vogue book of sewing and it's really good for clearly demonstrating different seam finishes which is, I think, where your questions really point you towards.  One of the hardest things with learning a new skill is knowing where to start but a reference source with a structure to it can really help with this.

And don't worry about messing things up - it's all part of learning and as long as you do learn something from it, it doesn't matter at all.

Emerion

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2020, 18:48:34 PM »
Thank you, that’s really helpful.
Machine: Singer 99K 1954
Ability: Plenty of room for improvement

BrendaP

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2020, 20:14:34 PM »
I agree with what @dolcevita says about finding a good book.  There's another thread about books - but if you can get hold of a vintage one '50s, '60s, '70s it won't assume that you are using an all singing all dancing machine.  I think that this is the one I learned to sew with (mine lost its jacket years ago) and it definitely doesn't.  In a couple of places it says 'if you have a swing needle machine' but mostly it assumes just straight stitch.

BTW, a buttonhole attachment on a vintage machine makes buttonholes every bit as good, and often better, than those made on a modern machine.
Brenda.  My machines are: Corona, a 1953 Singer 201K-3, Caroline, a 1940 Singer 201K-3, Thirza, 1949 Singer 221K, Azilia, 1957 Singer 201K-MK2 and Vera, a Husqvarna 350 SewEasy about 20 years old. Also Bernina 1150 overlocker and Elna 444 Coverstitcher.
http://paternoster.orpheusweb.co.

Emerion

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2020, 20:00:14 PM »
Thanks @BrendaP . Can I ask, is that book mostly straightforward sewing? I ask because I own a more modern sewing book, which is ⅓ patchwork and ⅓ embroidery, and I’m not currently interested in either of those. Because the “everyday” sewing section is only ⅓ of the book, it’s less detailed than you would expect from the size of the book.
Machine: Singer 99K 1954
Ability: Plenty of room for improvement

BrendaP

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2020, 20:40:48 PM »
@Emerion  Yes, it's mostly garment sewing.  There are chapters about fabrics, notions, tools, patterns, seams, construction things like facings, darts, tucks, collars, cuffs, hems, linings, interfacing etc, buttonholes and other fastenings, decorative finishes, a bit about tailoring, repairs and finally a chapter about cushions, curtains and bedspreads.

Brenda.  My machines are: Corona, a 1953 Singer 201K-3, Caroline, a 1940 Singer 201K-3, Thirza, 1949 Singer 221K, Azilia, 1957 Singer 201K-MK2 and Vera, a Husqvarna 350 SewEasy about 20 years old. Also Bernina 1150 overlocker and Elna 444 Coverstitcher.
http://paternoster.orpheusweb.co.

Mr Twingo

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2020, 09:25:13 AM »
Take a look at this guide: https://sewguide.com/how-to-sew-seams/ which details 20 different ways to create seams / hems.


Sewot

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2020, 20:51:02 PM »
I also like and work with old machines.
Its worth remembering that when these machines were new there was'nt the choice of fabrics that we have today.
If you are happy to make garments from good old cotton and maybe deviate just a bit, then the straight stitcher will do everything you want it to do.
As already said, you need to know what you want to make first off?
Most of the attachments you will not use.
Of all of them, get the singer button holer.
I still have mine and will not part with it.
It does a really excellent button hole especially if you go round twice. ( but SLOWLY).
Get some practice in sewing hankies as square as you can get them and with nice mitred corners.
It is very relaxing, gets you sewing and they are useful.
Gets you to know your machine so you work together.
Brilliant.
Keep at it.

Btw...I have just sold my singing and dancing 200 fancy stitch machine in preference to using my old machine.
It was a novelty but I don't need the fancy stitches and to spend a fortune on expensive coloured cottons!
But I am a grump.

jen

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2020, 08:02:57 AM »
You can sew a surprising range of fabrics on really old machines. Being really old myself  :D I remember sewing jersey similar to ponte on one, as well as the wovens.

b15erk

Re: Techniques on a really old machine
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2020, 11:36:01 AM »
Since lockdown I've been making masks, and I started off using the Pfaff - it's about 35 years old, so quite modern, and it was fine.  However, I've since tried mask making using the Singer 611g and the Featherweight - both substantially older, and I found it so much easier!

I usually leave the 611g set up for buttonholes as they are far superior to the Pfaff 1475.

The main thing is that you use your machine and its accessories to suit you, not because you feel you should.  I have loads of extra feet for all my machines, but I mainly use the standard foot for the particular machine, the invisible zip foot, the narrow hemmer.  The binders I find too fiddly, and I don't do FME very often.

Enjoy your sewing!

Jessie
Jessie, who is very happy to be here!!  :),  but who has far too many sewing machines to be healthy, and a fabric stash which is becoming embarrassing.