Thursday, 4 October 2012

Woes and Winter Wool

I'm currently facing most sewists' worst nightmare: an ailing sewing machine! While I'm competent enough to fix most mechanical issues, having maintained and fixed my own machines for several years now, when it comes to the electrical side I'm far from expert. The current issue is, of course, something electrical- a lack of speed control. Booo. My first instinct was a blown capacitor in the foot pedal, the usual suspect with this problem, but the usual fix of simply removing it has made no difference in this case. I'm now suspicious of the very carbonised motor or dodgy wiring, so will be trying to figure out how to pull the motor out. Even if that isn't the issue, it needs a good clean anyway so can't hurt!

Of course, this had to happen when I have a huge list of things to make, including the necessities of the advancing cold weather. While my own coat can wait a little, Little One is badly in need of hers making soon. Luckily my house is full of machines in various states of repair, so I went through them to find one that works adequately, and settled on my 1950s Frister and Rossmann Model "R", first blogged about here. She's incredibly grubby still, but the movement is smooth after a lot of WD-40 and fresh oil (the movement was seized solid when I got her) and the working areas are clean enough.

This is the pattern and fabric I'm using:

The pattern is Butterick 9955 dating from the early 1960s, a raglan sleeve coat with patch pockets, peter pan collar and a detachable hood. For the fabric I wanted something with a high wool content. This was one of the main reasons for making her a coat rather than buying one: of all the shops I've looked in, I've only found two children's coats with any wool content, and those were minimal at 10-15%. Polyester just isn't warm enough, however fuzzy it might look! This fabric came from eBay at just £3/m, and is a heavyweight wool blend, most likely with acrylic. I'll make the collar in black cotton velvet so it isn't scratchy.

I gave her free raid of the stash to choose a lining fabric, and of all the suitable fabric in there she went with this cotton print:

Mmm, crazy. I've used this for the body pieces, with a slippery poly lining for the sleeves. I've also interlined with cotton flanelette, cut from a cot sheet. Considering how often I use these sheets on the cot, I had an awful lot of them, so one won't be missed. The lining and flannel layer have been treated as one and sewn together.

It's a little slow going with the hand crank, but at least I can sew at night without waking anyone! The Model "R" still has slight issues with the tension, but the thick fabric here minimise them. I've also found that this machine is happier with a thicker thread, not unusual with vintage machines.

I've also just realised that I never did a detailed post on this machine like I did with the Jones I acquired at the same time. I'll get that written up soon!


  1. I have a few machines in need of a service unfortunately no-one near services. How did you learn to do little jobs on them. When my 21 yr old daughter was little she had a coat very similar in green and wore it all the time even in summer with shorts and blue wellies. Yep I could not get her out of those wellies no matter how hot it was.

    1. Mostly trial and error, and careful observation of the movement in the machine to figure out how things work myself. There's a lot of good info online. One great site is this one, which has a full manual for refurbishing vintage Singers:

      There is also this Yahoo! group for when you need help. They're a very knowledgeable lot here:

      My machines are all vintage with all-metal workings, and are all pretty simple mechanically speaking so they don't tend to get many problems that can't be fixed with a drop of oil and a scewdriver.