2010 Santa report

OK, so I’m a little behind the times… I wanted to put off crowing about my Christmas presents from Mr. Bug until I had time for a test drive, which I finally got to today. So! Merry Christmas to me! I got TWO awesome things from santa, but only one was sewing related, so we’ll start with that. Everyone, may I introduce my new friend, Singer Fashion Mate 237??

I have to admit to a bit of sewing machine apathy. My regular machine (a midrange Singer) works fine, makes clothes. I like that it has a thingie to help me thread the needle, because I’m going blind. And I like that it ends with the needle in the up position, because I’m lazy, but other than that, my favorite thing about my machine is that it makes clothes! But I am completely stoked about my new machine, complete with its 60’s era all-metal nature!

The machine was a COMPLETE surprise! Dan gave me a few pieces of wool as ‘clues’ in my wrapped packages (he got them at the same thrift shop where he found the machine!) and I totally couldn’t figure out the clues! He’d snuck the machine (it came in a cabinet, even!) into the sewing room! The cabinet is dinged up, but nice to have (I probably won’t be able to resist painting it white. Is that bad?) I like the turned legs.

The machine was very, very clean – no fuzz! The belt seems in good working order and I love how solid and humming the machine is! There is one part missing, though – the spindle. I fashioned one out of a #2 double pointed knitting needle and some rubber bands. I added a bit of masking tape after I took the photo to make it a bit more solid. It’s not great, but it’ll work ‘till I find a real spindle.

This model (Singer Fashion Mate 237) is from the late 60’s, all metal (except for part of the case) and has a straight stitch and zig zag stitch. It also has adjustable pressure on the presser foot, which is cool. I had a hard time figuring out how to adjust the stitch length – the little lever loosens with a bolt/screw cap that you move to slide down to the longer stitch lengths.


The foot pedal is very cool-looking and difficult for me to use! I ended up sitting it sideways, and just using my toes. I think the backwards method might work well – you know, where you rest your toes on the ground and press down with your heel?

OK, as much as I’m loving the machine, I’m having a problem with tension and would welcome any advice! I noticed when I did some test stitches that the bobbin thread loops were showing on the top of the fabric. Here’s a photo of what I’m talking about – it’s super magnified, so you can really see what I’m talking about – the top thread is black, bobbin thread is bright green.

I adjusted the tension on the top AND bottom. This is the closest I could get it to looking decent – here’s a shot from the back.

And here’s a larger stitching sample… I was still experimenting, so you can see a particularly bad tension issue with the zig zag stitch that’s six lines in from the right – see all that green thread!!??

OK. So I started out by messing with the upper tension, and even when I loosened it all the way to 0/lightest tension, the bobbin thread was still getting pulled to the top. I re-set the upper tension to 5, where it should be, and started tightening the bobbin tension one quarter turn at a time. The stitches that looked the best were actually with the upper tension around 3 and many quarter turns on the lower. Grrrr… I’m sort of thinking of just bringing it in, but will probably start again tomorrow!

On an interesting side note, halfway through my putzing with tension, I sewed a test seam on my regular machine, and it really wasn’t that much better than my testing stitches! I’d really like to get the new Singer working really well, because the stitches look nicer than what I’ve been doing and I’d love to have a good topstitching machine!

Such a pretty machine!

Another funny side note. The new machine is sort of pushed up against the wall over one of our heat registers. While I was playing today, Lucy the hound was in heaven. She was able to sit under a cozy table, in front of a toasty warm vent between my feet with her head resting on a chair rung. It was ridiculous. Here’s a quick picture taken in the dirty mirror…

Oh! And I mentioned two presents! Guess what the other one was? You’ll never guess! I’ll give you a hint. I never learned how to ride a bike. Lots of people have tried to teach me, but Mr. Bug took a different approach – a bike with three wheels! And a giant basket! Here’s a picture of the bike (trike!) he got for me that I shamelessly stole from Amazon, as mine is currently lurking in the basement, dreaming of warmer weather and more inflated tires… perhaps this will make my year of the dress plot make tons of sense? Does this bike NOT call out for a lovely series of summer dresses with full skirts? And we’re going to train Lucy to ride in the basket.


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  • Octi
    January 6, 2011

    I have that very same machine! It belonged to my great aunt, and judging from the nature of the sewing projects around it, she hadn't used it since the 80s. I've had it for a month or so, and I've only fiddled with it a little so far because the thread jams up under the fabric. I'm not super-motivated to get it in good working order until I find a cabinet for it–it's SO HEAVY.

  • Andrea
    January 6, 2011

    What a sweet pair of gifts! I love the idea of riding around on a three-wheeler!

    On the sewing machine tension … I guess it could be any number of things, but on my vintage Singer, I had tension problems at first because it turned out I had it threaded wrong. Duh! My stitches were looking a lot worse than yours, but I thought I'd mention it because it never hurts to check …

  • K.Line
    January 6, 2011

    I have an older singer my MIL gave to me and the tension was all weird at first. I put it away, all frustrated, and when I took it out again a month later, the problem was mysteriously resolved. I have no idea why. But I know what you mean about comparing the stitches on your new machine with the old (seriously good) machine, even as it gives challenges, and not seeing much of a difference. I don't know why the problem resolved. I think it was the mindless tinkering.

    PS: Awesome gifts!!

  • tanitisis
    January 5, 2011

    Oh, I hope you can get the tension figured out, that's a darling machine! I have a hard time endorsing the painting of solid wood (my parents spent a LOT of time stripping godawful layers of paint off nearly everything in the houses I grew up in), but if you must, you must. What about a crackle glaze?

    And I love your bike. One of my friends finally taught herself to ride a bike this past summer—it took her two hours of doing nothing but getting on and getting off in a park near her house. She was watched by construction workers the whole time, and she said when she finally got on and was able to go around in a circle without falling, all the workers cheered! Next tutorial—hound pillow for the basket? :)

  • Corrine
    January 5, 2011

    Dear Patty, love your blog, love your dog! My Basset, Mollie, was the love of my life, she lived 18 1/2 years. When I see your sweetie it reminds me of her great personality and curiosity. That said, What a great machine. One thing I learned with the older machines, find a qualified fixer. Really. Worth every penny. I recently sent my Featherweight 221 to a local Singer repair man. He does hundreds of machines per year and says each one has a quirk. A few dollars later and a simple explanation and I now have the perfect little machine (lightweight, perfect for classes) and know how to troubleshoot. Sometimes tension adjustments aren't enough, it could be an out of tension spring, a hook slightly of center, a belt with a bump. I am not so patient, this was a good course of action for me. Good luck. There are lots of on-line forums for the Featherweight, maybe there is one for this beauty.

  • Shasta
    January 5, 2011

    I am so jealous of both gifts!

  • dotted lines
    January 5, 2011

    I have a very similar machine! It's a Singer 631G, and I love it. I ended up taking it in to get everything fixed. The tension is a PITA. I'll be looking forward to seeing if you get it figured out – it might help me!

  • LAP
    January 5, 2011

    Where to start? With the cuuute bike, or the cuute sewing machine?

    That cabinet is just begging for glossy white paint, feel no remorse. And my guess is the more you sew with it, the better the tension will get, but I emailed you my sewing machine pusher's phone number because he might be able to help you over the phone..Now you'll be able to get a gathering foot and other feet and attachments that make sewing life super sweet.

    I love both your new toys so very much!

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