Dec 31, 2012

a story about my sewing machine

I sew on my great-grandmother's sewing machine, a 1974 or 75 Kenmore 1813. I love it, mainly because I am a sentimental sap, but also because it works like a charm most of the time.  I have a few issues with the tension every now and then--I attribute that more to me than to the machine.  I actually feel really fortunate to have a vintage machine.  There's no computer system to worry about and the insides are full of metal.  I think I also have most of the necessary accessories, like the manual, a few extra feet, and a buttonholer, and some extra goodies, like all of the original pattern cams for decorative stitches.

Unfortunately, the cams gave me a bit of trouble.  Even though I followed the instructions in the manual, the darn things would never actually change the stitches.  I chalked it up to my poor machine's original diagnosis of "broken stitch control" and moved on.  After all, my machine worked fine for pretty much anything else; clearly, that stitch control wasn't that important.  But, every now and then, I get the urge for a second opinion.  Surely, I think to myself, someone out there knows how to get whatever part needs to be replaced and knows how to fix it.

The other day, PJ and I were driving down a road that we have driven down a million times before when I spotted an Oreck/Singer dealership.  I have never noticed this place before, but I squealed for him to turn into the parking lot.  When we went in, we met a man in his 70s who patiently listened to me babble on about how my machine wasn't actually even a Singer, was probably 40 years old, worked fine except for one thing...blah, blah, blah.  He told me to bring it in sometime and offered to look at it for me.  I made PJ take me to pick up my machine, and we were back within the hour.  He opened up my machine and showed PJ (my own personal repairman) how all the parts worked together--PJ said he was surprised that it looked so much like a car engine.  The old man had not seen a machine like mine in a while, and he wasn't sure exactly what was going on.  We all wondered together if there was a spring or something missing and he noticed that my knob that controls the type of stitch (this is probably that crazy, broken stitch control) was a little off, but nothing stuck out to him as a glaring problem.  He offered lots of advice and expertise, but no definitive solution.  And in this age of internet, where do we go when actual people don't offer a definitive solution?  Google.

I'm not sure what I was expecting or wanting to find, but I searched on.  I eventually landed on My Sewing Machine Obsession, a blog about finding and fixing vintage sewing machines, and to my delight, there was a post or two about my exact model of machine.  Score!  I emailed the author of the blog asking if she might be willing to take some pictures of the inside of her machine so that we could compare hers to mine.  We would be able to tell pretty quickly if there was something missing on mine. Elizabeth did one better than email me a picture; she gave me an entire post!  Her pictures were so detailed and clear, and we easily confirmed that my machine is not missing any parts.

Now that we knew that my machine was not missing any parts or broken on the inside, my last hope for using my pattern cams seemed to be the knob that was a little off.  PJ and I read and re-read the instructions in the manual, and we tried making very slight adjustments to the stitch control knob until we figured out that instead of lining the stitch label straight up and down, we needed to turn the knob until the label was slightly left of straight.  Pattern cam success!

You'd better believe I tried out all 30 cams.  And yes, you are seeing fish, flowers, Christmas trees, hearts, ducks and swans.  

There is something so satisfying about knowing the my machine is essentially in perfect working order after I had thought it was damaged for so long.  I cannot wait to add some hearts and flowers to Cara's handmade goodies!


  1. That's awesome! Part of me wishes I had a vintage machine. I have a newer computerized Singer and I have trouble with the computer. Sometimes it just decides not to do something. Like the buttonholes I tried to make last night....

  2. You are amazing. I had to ask someone to thread a needle for me the other day....seriously.


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