Saturday, October 10, 2020

Meet My Singer 101-4


Meet the latest addition to my vintage sewing machine collection, a Singer 101-4.

Singer advertisement featuring the 101 series from 1930.

I picked her up from a thrift store in February of last year. She was in a cabinet that was totally messed up, and needed to be rewired.

I didn't know anything about it when I bought it, and had never seen anything like it. With the machine's serial number I discovered the model was a 101-4, with an allocation date of January 1930. Some information online is contradictory or vague, but I will share what I know for sure about the elusive Singer 101 models.

Singer 101-4 on the cover of a Singer Sewing Library booklet No. 1 published in 1929.

Previous to the 101 models, machines were manufactured to work either with human power (treadle or hand crank), or electricity with the addition of an external motor and belt. The earliest Singer machines manufactured were made before the possibility of electric motor power, and are only equipped to run with a treadle belt or hand crank (like my 15-30).

Later, Singer started adding in a motor mount molded into the side of the machine below the hand wheel that allowed for the sturdy addition of an electric motor. This also allows vintage and antique machines to be turned into a hand-crank with those new-style Chinese made hand-crank attachments (like my 66). 

With electricity more widely available after the turn of the 20th Century, Singer planned the first sewing machine with an integrated electric motor. The new 101 series debuted about 1920. The new new motor "is built in Machines 101-4 and 101-12, can be operated on either direct current or 25 to 75 cycle alternating current without change or adjustment." 

Singer advertisement dated 1930.

Model 101-4 was a cast iron body machine sold in a cabinet with a knee activated control. It was a machine "for family use with a horizontal rotary sewing hook that makes the lock stitch. It is especially designed for operation by electricity, having an efficient electric motor built in the back of its arm, the speed of the machine being controlled by means of a knee lever. It is also equipped with the electric Singerlight." The average cost of the Singer 101-4 was $178.00 in the mid 1920's.

Illustration from Singer Sewing Library booklent No. 2, published in 1930.

Model 101-12 was "the same as Machine 101-4 except that the heavy parts are made of aluminum which reduces the weight of the machine to the minimum so that it is easy to carry."

According to records, the 101 series was manufactured from about 1920 to about the mid 1930's (I have found differing date ranges online), with an average of 20,000 machines manufactured each of those years. As a comparison, the Singer 201 was manufactured from about 1935 through 1963, with many more hundreds of thousands made. I've read that the high cost of the 101 series, along with the fewer numbers manufactured, has made this an elusive model to find in the wild. Which is why I've never, ever seen one before.

Tom helped me rewire the machine from the light to adding a foot control and new power cord. Then we cleaned her up inside and out, and did a bit of customizing to the base so she'd fit better.

There are some big differences in this model and it's next generation, the 201

The stitch length selector is on the bed of the machine. It has a numbered, ticked dial that clickety-clicks very nicely when changing the stitch length. This machine also creates some of the smallest, finest stitches I've ever seen on a vintage machine.

Instead of accessing the inner workings underneath the machine, the 101 has a bed that unscrews and comes off. 

The bottom gears and workings are totally enclosed with metal, except for two small access holes with covers to allow cleaning and greasing of some gears. That octopus looking part is an integrated oiling well, pulling oil from a little pit into the workings of the machine.

The tension knob is the plain style, no numbers or markings.

And the bobbin is the same as the 201, although it is a bit easier to access on the 101.

Here's a snippet of me doing a bit of sewing to test her out. She sews sooooo smothly! And as far as VSM's go, she's pretty quiet.

I'm pretty smitten with this machine, it's so pretty. I set the 101-4 up at my window sewing spot and hope to do a bit of stitching with her soon!

Thanks for stopping by! Cheers and stay well - Erika

Friday, September 25, 2020

Sewing Fabric Face Masks with the AccuQuilt GO! DIY Face Mask-Medium Die

So, have you been sewing fabric face masks like crazy? 😉 

I've been sewing fabric face masks in small batches since the spring, and constantly look for any way to make the process faster. A few weeks ago I noticed that AccuQuilt added face mask dies, and ordered the medium size DIY Face Mask die. I was slightly nervous about the sizing after reading a handful of comments that the pattern was too big.

But after getting the die in the mail earlier this week, I was super happy to see that the pattern is just about the same exact size as the masks I've already been sewing!

I shared a post with BERNINA's WeAllSew blog today with more information about using the AccuQuilt DIY Face Mask Medium Die, and some tips I've learned for sewing fast face masks.

I use knit ties that go around your neck instead of tight over the ears, and this allows for some extra room for fitting the masks to your face. These fit me just fine, and also fit my 6th grader Fidget's face, too. More tips about the knit ties at the blog post in the link above, and check out how they fit on the quick video snippet below.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Custom Suzuki Savage

This post is totally off-subject, but I'm really proud of Tom's latest project finish! He's got a creative streak of his own rebuilding and customizing Japanese motorcycles.

In a normal year he'd be showing-off his latest build at shows throughout the Midwest, but things being what they are in 2020, this bike hasn't traveled any farther than our garage. So I thought I'd show it off a bit for him. ;)

This custom started off as a 1996 Suzuki Savage. I watched this bike get completely torn apart down to the last nut and bolt over the past three years by Tom and Tim, AKA T&T Garage, as they worked some custom garage magic on this bike.

Tom is really inspired by early Japanese motorcycles, like the Honda Dream D-Type. You can see that inspiration in this build, it's got simplified lines, it's clean and no-nonsense, and totally beautiful. 

The frame was customized to a hard-tail.

Brakes customized to a single brake pedal that actuates both front and rear brakes.

Custom leaf spring seat with minimal hardware.

Custom exhaust with leg guard.

Internal throttle, belt drive replaced with a chain drive, and a simple design with electrical wires hidden in the frame or under the tank. Oh, and that tank isn't original, it's from a 1979 Kawasaki KZ650.

Congratulations Tom, it's a really beautifully built bike! I can't wait to see this bike out and about next year.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Simple Patchwork Sewing Tips

If you're just learning to quilt, you'll soon discover how important it is to sew a nice, straight line when stitching patchwork. Sewing off from the seam allowance just a bit or deviating from sewing a straight line can create wonky, wavy patchwork. And sometimes the blocks or points won't match up in your block pattern.

Here's a few simple patchwork sewing tips to help you sew those nice, straight seams!

By the way, if you're sewing face masks with 100% tightly woven quilting fabric, and using 1/4" seam allowance with straight stitches, these tips will also help you sew some sweet stitches in those masks.

Let's get ready to sew some patchwork!

I'm creating half-square triangle blocks using this method, but these tips will work for any type of patchwork stitched with straight lines and a 1/4" seam allowance, and will work with any brand of sewing machine.

Before getting ready to sew, give your machine a quick cleaning. This is a good opportunity to oil your sewing machine if you haven't done it recently. Cleaning and oiling will help your machine sew smoothly and create those perfect straight stitches for your patchwork.

Use a straight stitch needle plate when sewing straight line patchwork. Most sewing machine brands have one, and if your machine didn't come with a straight stitch needle plate you can purchase one for your machine.

The straight stitch needle plate has one small hole to accept the needle and helps support the fabric while stitching. This can prevent the fabric from "flagging" or causing drag on the needle, and helps to prevent stitch issues. It will also help prevent that annoying problem of fabric being pulled down through the needle plate into the bobbin area!

Insert a new needle, and use the right kind of sewing machine needle to sew the patchwork. Chances are you're sewing with woven, medium weight quilting cotton, and a sharp or microtex needle size 75/11 or 80/12 will work perfectly.

Attach a presser foot specially made for sewing patchwork. These are straight stitch feet that have markings or guides to help you sew an exact 1/4" seam. BERNINA offers a variety of patchwork feet, and virtually every other sewing machine brand will offer at least one. Learn how to use your specific patchwork foot for best results by practicing a bit with fabric scraps.

Select the right kind of thread to sew your patchwork and wind a full bobbin. Quilters usually have a personal preference, and you can choose between something like an Aurifil 100% cotton thread or a Gutterman polyester/cotton blend. There are still others that you may want to try - ask friends what they prefer.

When creating a quilt that will be used and washed, I prefer a high-quality cotton/poly blend 40 weight thread such as the Gutterman Sew-All or the Mettler Metrosene for piecing patchwork.

Thread your sewing machine.

Pull up the bobbin thread.

If you don't have your sewing machine in a cabinet that offers a nice, flat sewing surface, be sure to use a slide-on table. This will help you guide the fabric through the machine and support the patchwork pieces as you sew.

Set your straight stitch length around 2.0 to 2.5mm, or 10-12 stitches per inch. You want a stitch that's tight, but not so small that you can't easily rip out the stitches if you make a mistake. Now you're ready to sew that perfect patchwork!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Making Memories With Quilts

When my mom was ready, I cleaned out my late stepfather's closet and took all the cotton dress shirts and pants to make quilts for the family. The first one I made was for Fidget so she could have a little memory of Grandpa to cuddle with.

I decided to use big 12" finished blocks in a simple geometric pattern for Fidget's quilt, and sketched up some ideas for Fidget. She chose a basic quarter-square design in a random pattern, and selected her favorites from Grandpa's shirts to make her quilt.

I shared the process for making Fidget's quilt at BERNINA's WeAllSew blog, including how to prepare clothing for yardage in making quilts. Find links below to the three-part series.

I hope you get inspired to try making a quilt from clothing, even if it's some of your own!

We're getting ready for our little family memorial gathering at the end of the week to honor my stepfather. Our whole family is busy cleaning house and getting the yard ready for our socially-distanced outdoor party. I'm looking forward to seeing family and remembering my stepfather, he was an absolute character! From telling stories about his days studying Karate and earning a brown belt in the 70's to his funny anecdotes about being a kid, he will definitely be missed. In his last few years he never missed an opportunity to tell me how proud he was of me and what I've accomplished, and how much he loved Fidget.

Hold your family tight, and if you're socially distancing make sure to see them via screen time soon. Be safe and stay well!