Meet Frankie

She’s a 1934, model 15-91 Singer.

IMG_3189

And she’s beautiful!

IMG_3202.jpg

I found her tucked away in the back of a Goodwill (thrift shop) for $99 where she had been mislabeled an “end table.” I snatched her right up (and even got half off the price at the register) and prayed that the piece of tape that said “still runs” was true.

When I was cleaning her and giving her a tune-up, I relied heavily on some really great blog posts that gave tips and pointers. I’ll link some of them at the bottom, but I’m also going to go through what work I did on Frankie in the hopes that my experiences will help at least one person out there that has a ’34 Singer of their own to work on.


 

To begin, this is the shape I brought her home in. Dusty and stained with age, but all the parts were there and there wasn’t any major damage. Plus the decals were in pretty good shape, too!

IMG_3339

These were the products I used for cleaning:

  1. Compressed air
  2. Flitz Polish (metal/plastic/fiberglass polish)
  3. Sewing machine oil (Singer brand)
  4. Pledge (furniture polish)
  5. Microfiber cloths
  6. Water + dish soap
  7. Cotton swabs
  8. Steel wool
  9. Gun-cleaning cloth (infused with “rust and lead remover”)

The first thing I did was gently spray dust out of the interior of the machine, out of the cabinet, and then lightly dust off the cobwebs with the microfiber cloth.

After that, the real work began.

IMG_3340

Using a flathead screwdriver (lots of different sizes help), I took the metallic parts of the machine off one piece at a time and cleaned them.

IMG_3211
Before

Steel wool + elbow grease took off most of the rust and grime, except for some deep pits. Then a good polish with the Flitz restored a lot of the shine.

IMG_3219
After

The two-step process worked really well on all of the silver metal parts, even the decorative plates.

IMG_3307
Before
IMG_3322.jpg
After

For less-shiny pieces, like the feet, I used just steel wool.

IMG_3320
Before & after

The steel wool got the rust and grime off and didn’t aggravate the areas where the plating had worn off from use.

For the black body of the machine, a.k.a. the non-mental parts (which I learned is called japanning), I followed the advice of the tutorials I’d read and used mild dish soap + water to get the grime off. I tried out the gun-cleaning cloth, but it didn’t blow me away so I stuck with the suggested few drops of sewing machine oil to polish it and bring back most of the shine while leaving the decals intact. Cotton swabs worked very well for getting in the nooks and crannies. Just be careful not to rub too hard or you’ll take off the gold.


The basic mechanics of the machine are surprisingly straightforward. If you’re nervous about fiddling around with the inside, don’t be! It makes a lot of sense once you slow down and take a look.

IMG_3309

My machine had an issue with the presser foot – it wouldn’t raise or lower when I moved the lever on the back. Opening it up, I applied some penetrating oil where the presser bar (the one on the left) goes through by the body of the machine and waited half an hour. It didn’t help; the foot still didn’t budge.

So, at the advice of my father, I placed a brass screw-type-shape thing (it’s apparently softer metal, so it won’t ding anything) on top of the bar and tapped it lightly with a hammer until it freed. Then I worked some sewing machine oil into the joints and it’s moved freely since then!

The next step was to oil all of the moving parts machine with sewing machine oil at the suggestion of the original manual (see the bottom of the post).

IMG_3220

That whole thing was the dirtiest part of the whole job!


At this point I plugged the machine in and held my breath, hoping that it would go.

Well, it went…very, very slowly.

The first thing I looked at was the pedal. I opened it up, following a really helpful guide I found online (see bottom of post for link), and found that there was a small brass piece missing and another piece had been inserted backwards to compensate for it. The piece was like a nut, but it also apparently completed the electrical circuit inside the pedal itself.

I started looking at pedals to buy online so I could get a replacement part, but my dad had the idea to open up the “extra” motor that was mounted inside the cabinet that was attached to the knee pedal. Sure enough, it had the missing part inside! Since I don’t plan on ever using the knee pedal (the wires are badly frayed) I swapped it over to the foot pedal and gave it another try.

It still ran extremely slowly.

So it was time to take a closer look at the electrical guts of the machine.

IMG_3326

One of the features of this model was that it offered a built-on motor, apparently called a “potted motor,” instead of a separate one that sat at the back on the base. If you take the cover off, this is what it looks like – I was very scared to touch it.

But I had to figure out why it sewed so slowly.

I found an original troubleshooting guide online (see bottom of post) and started going through step by step taking the motor slowly apart to make sure all of the pieces were working okay. All of the wiring looked perfect, so it was difficult to figure out.

IMG_3349.jpg

One of their suggestions was to take out the brushes (one on top and one on bottom, under big, black screws) to make sure they’re still good. I got about this far and then took a break for the night. It was a lot of intricate work navigating around the motor (you even have to take off the wheel to get at the good parts) so I spent rest of the evening browsing the web for replacement motors, just in case.

IMG_3442.jpg

Well, one of the things I noticed while browsing spare parts was that the new brushes (on the left, above) were square on the bottom. The ones in my machine were very curved (on the right, above). I had thought they had been designed like that on purpose, but the website got me thinking. I ordered two new ones for a much better price ($15.89, including shipping) than buying a new motor (~$80, not including shipping).

IMG_3441.jpg
New ones!

A few days  later, I popped them in and gave it another whirl.

Success!

The machine runs perfectly now.

The brushes are needed to complete the electrical circuit, so the worn ones weren’t making enough constant contact to keep the machine going at its regular pace.


As for the cabinet, the top needed a lot of work. Apparently, it had been sitting a long time with a doily on top, and possibly some potted plants, judging by the circles where the finish came off.

IMG_3191.jpg
Before

I started by going over the whole thing with furniture polish. Much to my surprise, it took the dark shadow totally off the top. What I had thought was deep discoloration was actually just a thick layer of grime!

IMG_3332.jpg

This is now it looks now. I’m still doing some research on what it takes to refinish the top, so it’ll stay like this for the time being. The wood is very soft.

The rest of the cabinet is in much better shape, save for some nicks and small water stains. I tried out a couple of wax/marker “furniture-fillers” but I couldn’t find a matching color so I didn’t go forward with any of the products I tried.


And that’s what I did to restore Frankie and get her into good working order.

So, on to some bonuses!

IMG_3195

Inside the cabinet is a set of drawers for storage that held a few treasures. Namely, the original operating manual! Oh my gosh, I was so excited when I saw it. It was a real help to have on hand when I was oiling the machine and threading it.

There were also a couple more surprises in the drawer: a very skinny foot (zipper?), some machine needles, and spare pins.

IMG_3199.jpg

Strapped in underneath is the original bottle of oil, still half-full.

IMG_3297.jpg

And I had even more of a surprise when I tilted the machine back to dust underneath it and found a lot more goodies inside! A couple more feet, more pins, needles, some scraps of old projects, and the bobbin case with a bobbin in it!

IMG_3300.jpg

I don’t know what the previous owner was sewing, though, because there are half a dozen colors of thread wound on the bobbin.

IMG_3296.jpg

Something I found amazing was how little the basic design of a sewing machine has changed in almost one hundred years. My modern-day bobbin is on the left and the 1930’s one is on the right in the picture above. The parts are so similar, in fact, that I’m able to use a modern-day bobbin in the vintage machine so I can leave the original intact with its myriad of threads.


And that’s it! It seems like a lot when I write it down, but it took only about a day and a half. I had a ton of fun working on it and definitely foresee more projects like this in the future!

IMG_3346

This is what Frankie looks like now – all nice and shiny and running like a charm!

IMG_3347

Now I get to pick out my first project to sew on her!


But, before I go, I promised to list some of the resources I found supremely helpful.

  1. 15-91 manual
  2. Cleaning guide I
  3. Cleaning Guide II
  4. Cleaning Guide III
  5. Fixing the pedal   *** this blogger was extra helpful – she  took the time to answer a question from me on this post that is, by now, several years old
  6. General servicing
  7. Reconditioning tips
  8. Adjuster’s manual/troubleshooting guide
  9. Where I bought the brushes from

If I think of any more, I’ll add them!

Advertisements

Real Life {An Update}

So, apparently August is Costume Blogging Writing Month – a.k.a. CoBloWriMo – and I just learned of this fact this morning. Haha. As a huge fan of NaNoWriMo and month-long prompts, how can I pass this opportunity up??

20293003_10200262941960736_4794847220321860285_n
CoBloWriMo

Since today is the first day and the prompt is “Introduce Yourself,” I thought I’d give a peek at what’s been going on in my life behind the scenes. It’s been a long time since I wrote my original introductory post and a lot has changed since then. (I did just update my “About Me” page, though!)

Travel – 

Perhaps my number one goal for 2017, I resolved to travel more and have been taking every opportunity to do so. As such, this has been the summer of road trips for me! It started at the end of May, right before my birthday, when I drove all the way down to San Diego and spent a week enjoying what California has to offer. From the Redwood forest to Disneyland to Knott’s Berry Farm to the San Diego Zoo, I had an absolute blast.

 

After that came three more trips to eastern Washington, Idaho, and then a quaint Bavarian town in the mountains called Leavenworth.

 

In a couple months I’ll be setting out on my dream vacation – two weeks in Italy! You guys, I’m seriously so excited. It doesn’t seem real yet!

Work/school –

In the middle of all that, I got a promotion at work! I’m very proud of my effort in that area and have enjoyed my new position so far.

IMG_3447.JPG

To top it all off, I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree. I graduated from university a couple years ago now and am itching to put my degree to use. Enter: Masters of Library and Information Science. I start in a couple weeks and can’t be more thrilled!

Throughout all of this, I’ve been seriously thinking about my blog and ways to share more of what I do. I have so much I want to write about and talk about and learn about that I need to actually sit down and do it {insert Shia Labeouf gif here}. What I want to get out of this month of blog prompts is practice in writing and publishing, even though what I end up with might not be perfect. At least it’ll be something!

So keep an eye out – I have some great plans!

Rhubarb Meringue Pie {1928}

What do you do when you have a freezer full of last summer’s rhubarb and a limited time before serious freezer-burn sets in?

You search through your vintage cookbooks for a suitable recipe, of course!

IMG_2497

The winning recipe was discovered in my 1928 edition of “The Rector Cook Book” by George Rector…

IMG_2498

…that is apparently a signed copy! That was fun to discover!

IMG_2499

I’d never heard of George Rector before thumbing through his cookbook, but a quick google search turned up some interesting information. He was, apparently, a very popular chef during the 20’s and 30’s. In addition to running a restaurant very popular with Broadway celebrities, he was also featured in newspapers, movies, and radio broadcasts during his day.

IMG_2510

My copy of his cookbook holds some neat treasures tucked within its pages: clipped recipes accompanied by darling illustrations that, judging by the style of the ladies’ dresses, show that it was used at least through the early 30’s.

IMG_2512IMG_2514

There are also a couple remnants of the jacket that have survived as bookmarks.

I was quite intrigued by his recipe for “Rhubarb Meringue Pie,”  a combination I’d never considered before, and gave it a try.

IMG_2515

The recipe included very specific instructions for preparing the rhubarb, which I followed the best I could since I was starting with frozen.

The process of preparing the custard-y filling looked like I was making a very runny macaroni and didn’t appear too appealing before baking.

The crust, however, was beautiful. It rolled out nice and thin and was a wonderful dough to work with.

And, in the end, it all came together into a beautiful pie.

IMG_2524

A unique flavor combination, it had all the tangy deliciousness of rhubarb pie that was balanced out by the sweetness of the custard and the light, fluffy topping. I’d definitely make it again!

I’ll add the recipe under the cut so you can try it too! Tell me what you think!

Continue reading “Rhubarb Meringue Pie {1928}”

Red, White, and Blue {Modern Dress Diary 1}

Although it may not be obvious from what I usually post about, I actually do sew quite a few modern garments for myself.

Particularly dresses.

IMG_2784

And the time has certainly come for summer dresses! (Well…mostly. It’s still a tiny bit rainy still her in the Pacific Northwest.)

Most of the dresses currently hanging in my closet are me-made and, considering the size my fabric stash has grown to, I hope to complete several more by the time summer and sunshine are through.

IMG_2796

As I was sewing this one the other night, I thought back to when I worked with this pattern last summer and wished I had written down my notes. A year later it was like I was starting all over again and the only thing I had to go off of was the pattern pieces I’d already cut out. (I couldn’t even find the instructions.)

IMG_2825

So this series is born out of a desire to share some of what I wear everyday and to keep a record for myself.

IMG_2828

The bodice is Simplicity 1418 and the skirt is just a large rectangle gathered and sewn on. I made the proper version of this pattern last year out of purple linen and it’s been a staple in my closet since. This time I wanted something less streamlined, and more floofy, so I gathered as much fabric as I could into the skirt.

IMG_2835

And I’m so pleased with the result!

It’s sparkly and billows when I twirl – what more could I ask for??

IMG_2836


Notes:

Material: 3 yards printed cotton

Pattern: Simplicity 1418 for bodice (size 18), none for skirt

Time to complete: 10 hours, give or take

Notions: side zipper

Likes: volume of skirt, fit of armscye, length of skirt, height of neckline

Dislikes: waist can be taken in and lengthened 1-2 inches, neckline gapes slightly


So here’s to the start of summer! May everyone wear great outfits and have great fun! What are your sewing and/or travel plans?

Pink Renaissance Day Dress

Today I took my first foray into self-portraiture and the complexities of using a remote shutter control in order to take some pictures of my latest sewing project.

DSC_0768

It involved a lot of running back and forth in the woods (and hiding from hikers behind trees) but they came out pretty well for my first try!

DSC_0831

This dress was born out of curiosity a few months ago when I was scrolling through Italian renaissance portraiture on the internet and it struck me how, basically, those painted images are the only visual source we have left to study. There are very, very, very few extant garments left from the late 15th/early 16th century.

DSC_0798

By having only those paintings, what we have to go off of (from the perspective of historical garments) is, for the most part, stylized versions of the upper class’s best clothes. So what about the rest of the ladies?

DSC_0820

This dress is the first step in a long journey to try to answer that question.

DSC_0769

Conceptualized as a work/day/house dress for a lady who was middle class or lower in station, I whipped up a chemise to go underneath it. I’m still deciding on the design of the sleeves so those will come in time.

DSC_0781

I relied heavily on a book called “Dressing Renaissance Florence” by Carole Collier Frick in my research for this ensemble. It had a ton of fantastic information in it and was super helpful. I’ll go into more detail about my research and the actual making of this dress in a later post.

DSC_0772

But, because I found so much inspiration in her research (and the primary sources she cites), I’m putting this dress down as my entry for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge this month – “Literature.”

DSC_0796

The Challenge: Literature (HSM #5)

Fabric: Pink linen, brown linen, white cotton.

Pattern: Self-drafted from my red renaissance dress

Year: c. 1500

Notions: Thread, embroidery floss, brass lacing rings, lacing cord

How historically accurate is it? Quite. Entirely hand-sewn, even!

Hours to complete: Worked on it off and on all month.

First worn: Today!

Total cost: About $10 for both pieces together.

DSC_0778

Construction details coming soon!

My Day* in a Waist Trainer

Waist trainers seem to be everywhere these days. Celebrities are spouting them all over social media (hello, Kim Kardashian) and when I first heard about it, my first thought was “You guys realize you’re bringing back corsets, right?”

For me, growing up I only ever heard negative opinions about corsets. Things like “they made ladies faint” (a la Gone with the Wind), “ladies couldn’t breathe while wearing them” (a la Meet me in St. Louis), and “ladies removed their ribs to be able to squeeze into them” [which is debunked quite nicely here].

tumblr_mx2ryssQq81s63bkno1_400
gif from saturdaynightmovie.tumblr.com

It wasn’t until I started studying history and historical clothing and actually wore a corset that I realized just how untrue all of these things are. I’m not trying to delve to get into the stigma around them or the reality of a properly-fitting corset them in this post – that’s a topic for another day.

Today I’m talking about waist trainers. After seeing image after image of women wearing them and singing their praises come across my instagram feed, I cut to the chase and actually ordered one for myself. This one, to be exact:

da8d33b37a65aa44013485519cdab109

It features four steel bones and measures almost 10″ high. I bought a size XL, which is suggested for 31.5 to 33.8 inches. My natural waist measurement is 34″.

My first thought when I picked it out was that it reminded me of various “ventilated” or “summer” corsets that I’ve come across over the years. See? Another reference to corsetry!

2010EE8168_jpg_ds
Such as this one. V&A Museum.

When it arrived I tried it on right away. It was late at night and, at first, it felt really tight and uncomfortable (and was hard to get on – I ended up fastening it and stepping into it). So I took it right back off and set it aside for a few days until I had decided to actually give it a proper try.

 

one
You can’t even really tell I’m wearing a waist trainer.

I put it on when I got dressed at 8 am and my initial plan was to wear it to work for my entire 10-hour shift and record how I felt and looked throughout the day (through a series of unabashed bathroom-mirror selfies).

In that plan, I decided that I would consider the experiment a success if the waist trainer provided a smooth waistline while remaining comfortable. And if it helped support my lower back (I stand all day), that would be a major plus.

L: waist trainer on.        R: waist trainer off.

I had breakfast, drove to work, and got my day started. Sitting in my car was a little weird at first, but not uncomfortable. Nothing pinched or was too tight and it made my torso significantly less rigid than in a corset. It did smooth out my waistline and decrease the circumference by almost one inch. The weirdest part, at first, was how it made me feel like I was made of rubber.

http-mashable.comwp-contentgallerywind-sockswindsock8
Kind of like this guy. Source.

Whenever I bent at the waist, the elasticity made me feel like I should immediately spring back straight up. Very different than wearing a corset, which makes you bend at the hips, but not uncomfortable, per se.

L: waist trainer on.        R: waist trainer off.

Unlike some other peoples’ experiences that I read briefly before doing this (x, x), I had no trouble breathing, I never felt light-headed, I wasn’t overheating, and eating was no problem. I was feeling good!

But by 9:30 I wasn’t so sure anymore.

On my notes I jotted down that I was “iffy,” but then an hour later it was back to “totally fine.” After a little more back and forth, I started to get a headache and was unsure whether or not it was from the waist trainer.

Then around 11:30 it started to slip, and by noon it was digging into my sides.

It settled in right at my waistline, bunching up and becoming supremely uncomfortable. I tried to readjust it but nothing short of taking it completely off and then putting it back on would fix the problem.

So off it came and I spent my lunch break lounging comfortably with the waist trainer stashed in my purse. I haven’t put it back on since.

What I found super interesting, though, was that the waist trainer started to collapse in on me in exactly the same way that my Edwardian corset did a few months ago. This definitely warrants more research. The garments are so different that I wonder if the root of the situation might lie in the shape of my actual body. Hmmm…

So, in all I wore it the waist trainer for four hours. I’m not opposed to wearing it again, for a shorter length of time, but I think I’ll stick to support garments with more inherent shape and structure.

My experience had nothing to do with how the actual garment was manufactured, though. It was well-constructed and pretty good quality, especially for its price.

Have you ever tried a waist trainer? What was your experience?

*by day I mean morning. Haha.

A Day in Storybrooke

title card

About this time yesterday I laced up my adventure boots, hopped in my car, and drove up to Storybrooke, Maine.

Well, it reality it was a town called Steveston in British Columbia, Canada, which is where they film my favorite show of all time: Once Upon a Time.

20170316_114403
Road trip!

 

I’ve talked about it on here briefly before, but anybody who knows me in real life knows that I am a huge fan of the show. So, imagine my delight and surprise when I realized that the town they use to film the exterior scenes is only two hours from me.

20170316_123432
Arriving in Steveston

The day I was there was not a day they were filming, but some of the signs are left up all year round. I had a fun time walking along the streets, spotting Storybrooke signage hidden in plain sight among the rest of the regular businesses.

I had lunch at a location very well known to fans: Granny’s Diner.

A.K.A. The Cannery Cafe.

I had a truly delicious fish burger and the people there were incredibly nice. The whole town felt super welcoming! I was surprised how many people were out and about, milling around the town on a super rainy Thursday afternoon.

When I say rainy, I mean rainy. Like, dumping. When I got there it was just starting to sprinkle, but when I came out from lunch I almost got blown away. And then, as quickly as it began, it stopped. The sun didn’t come out but at least it was dry!

I’d love to be there on a day they’re actually filming. I felt a little conspicuous walking around taking pictures, so I tried to stick to phone photos and quick selfies to try to blend in at least a little. I scouted out quite a few recognizable filming locations, though!

It’s a beautiful town on the water that would be worth visiting even without the connection to the show. I definitely want to go back to spend some time at the docks in a little warmer weather.

I did a little window shopping, popped into a couple of the stores, and had fun playing with Canadian money. Haha.

And then, of course, it got sunnier and sunnier the closer I got to home. I definitely foresee another trip up there sometime in the near future – perhaps once spring finally arrives.

Anyone else watch Once Upon a Time? Have you ever been to Steveston?

Lida Rose Corset in Action

DSC_8408

My beautiful, beautiful corset.

What happened to you?

20161026_232741
Looking normal…

I wore it to Disneyland, under my Cadaver Danielles outfit, for about 6 hours and it started to cave in about halfway through. I didn’t quite understand what was going on while I was wearing it, so I snapped some pictures when I got back to my hotel to try to figure out what happened (you can see my pretty petticoat!).

20161026_232615

The back started bowing out right at my waistline, which you can kind of see in the picture. I laced it pretty loose that night, but the sides pulled it all wonky.

20161026_232753      20161026_232806

On the left it’s bowing out, on the right it’s doing what it’s supposed to.

20161026_232927

And you can see it even better here. I still have my bum pad on underneath (which gives my some crazy hips!) but the sides are certainly not in the right spot!

20161026_233053

And this is what it did to my waist. Not the most comfortable…

from-instagram

When I tried it on after making it, the sides were fine. And it was okay when I wore it around the house to break it in. Some of my theories:

  1. I tied it too loose that night.
  2. Too high up under my arms (it rubbed a bit), so maybe it bowed whenever I bent sideways.
  3. Too weakly boned. I used zip ties purposefully, to keep it light but that might not have made it supportive enough.

Any more ideas? Insight? Wisdom? I really want this corset to be wearable in the future.

Cadaver Danielles {Edwardian Skirts}

You know these guys?

17970743374_30ecc10681_k
copyright harshlight

They’re the Dapper Dans – a barbershop quartet that performs in Disneyland – and for the Halloween season they transform into these guys:

10702996073_58c9d0cb2b_k
copyright maddyindisneyland

The Cadaver Dans! They’re awesome – one of our favorite acts!

dl-and-halloween-2016-1349

Which is why my sister and I dressed up as them for Halloween…well, the female version.

Getting ready.

Our skirts are made from Butterick 5970, hemmed to keep the train off the ground since Disneyland doesn’t allow costumes that drag. I plan on letting down the hem someday.

Most of our outfits were sewn at the eleventh hour – literally the day before we left – so we’re wearing everyday dress shirts over corsets. It worked! Haha.

Somehow we managed to cram all of our clothes into my carry-on, which was a miracle in and of itself. I’m wearing my S-curve corset, bustle pad, a petticoat, shirt, and skirt.

DL and Halloween 2016 1353.jpg

My sister is wearing basically the same thing, just an earlier corset style and she skipped bustle the pad.

dl-and-halloween-2016-1357

I had searched long and hard for the prefect black fabric for our skirts and ended up buying some black peach fuzz at Walmart that looks really great in motion. The rippling and swishing is exactly what I envisioned!

dl-and-halloween-2016-1560

We had hoped to get a picture with the Cadaver Dans at the party, but they apparently weren’t walking around.

dl-and-halloween-2016-1578

So we watched their show on the river instead.

dl-and-halloween-2016-1591

Twice.

We also did other things like ride rides (not the easiest thing in a corset), watch the parade, and try some snacks. Funny story: lots of people mistook us for employees and we were asked questions like where the bathrooms were and when the parade was. Even funnier, we knew all the answers!

By the end of the night we had had a great time and were thoroughly exhausted.

Fabric: Black peach fuzz
Pattern: Butterick 5970
Year: 1905
How historically accurate is it? Probably not the most accurate, technically, but it looks convincing!
Hours to complete: I did both in the same day.
First worn: Halloween 2016
Total cost: About $20 each

Destiny

Apparently it was fate that I would learn to sew one day.

img_0534

My destiny was foretold eons ago…

img_0535

Memorialized in detailed, primitive artwork…

img_0536

They offer a glimpse into the dreams of a young girl…

img_0537

Showing the dresses that she hoped to create one day…

img_0538

Such ensembles seemed beyond her reach…

img_0539

But she kept dreaming until she could do.

(Seriously, apparently drawing like these were all I made when I was little! I don’t remember doing these ones exactly, but I have fond memories of designing fantastical dresses growing up. Apparently it was destiny that I would actually create some one day!)