Universal Apollo (Singer 15-30 “clone”/HA-1 generic) aka “The Experiment”

Isn’t she pretty?

Prepare for a bombardment of photographs!

Unfortunately her story is not as triumphant as the Singer 328P.

I spotted her on TradeMe, advertised as just “Apollo Sewing Machine”, at a mere $1 reserve and bided my time until nearer the auction end time. In the mean time I had a quick squizz online for information and came up with absolutely nothing.

Shrug.

I figured she was some sort of re-badged Singer 15-something so I decided, working or not (there was a suggestion that it did “sew”, but we know what that means don’t we?), I wanted her. She was just so cute looking, sparkly green and smaller sized. If she went cheap enough she would be worth getting if only for pulling apart to learn more about the internals.

After a fierce 7-bidder battle in the dying 2 minutes, of which I was the victor of course, I organised to pick her up. This involved climbing up a super steep driveway – this is Wellington after all, shaped by violent geological forces – waaaay on the other side of the harbour. I do wish people would be more specific with their suburb listings!

She cost me a tiny $23.50

The lady was very nice (face-to-face contact this time) and even offered to carry it down the driveway with me to my car. On the way I learnt that the seller had been gifted several machines from an estate of a friend. He had been a sewing machine repairer/restorer so had quite a collection.

At first I was quite excited to hear this thinking that a machine from a repairer/restorer would most certainly be in sewing condition…and then Sensible Kiwi realised that actually it was quite possible there was a very good reason why this machine was residing with the former owner!

Once I was at home I put her up on my table and had a good look at her. She was dirty but even more cute IRL, a smaller and older looking version of the 201 with a few other style differences.

The power cord, plug and foot controller all looked in excellent condition, no exposed wiring or dodgy looking connections, but just to be safe I tested all the movable parts by hand first.

My first discovery, not very surprisingly, is that she needs a new drive belt and bobbin winder ring. Both are badly degraded, but I know where to buy those from.

Then I immediately spotted something more seriously amiss – there was no thumb screw in the curved slot beside the stitch length lever, hmm…

The tension knob also turned round and round past the numbers without any stopper, something must be missing inside there as well.

I unwound it for a quick look. When I had the 328′s assembly apart I remember there was a sort of tabbed stop washer inside which doesn’t seem to be present in this model, this is either by design (doubt it) or perhaps this is the All Knowing Vintage Sewing Machine Buyers Powers That Be keeping my 2 for 2 tension-dial-has-been-fuxed-with-on-every-machine-you-have-bought-so-far record in check (more likely).

I was feeling a bit deflated now so I tipped out the accessory tin to see what goodies were in there. A bobbin case but no bobbin, three extremely rusty feet (zipper, binding and whatever that other things is?!), screwdriver thingee and some other unidentifiable metal bits that may or may not have belonged to my machine or indeed any machine.

Sigh.

It was time for a cup of tea and a bikkie.

I chatted with Nerdy Hubby and he reminded me that I had said I didn’t mind if this machine ended up as my sacrifice, something on which to experiment and learn a bit more without ruining something that cost me 10 times as much.

He was right, I was just feeling disappointed because she looked like such a cutie and I was hoping for another triumphant vintage machine buying win.

So I went back into my room and took a better look at those random metal bits.

That’s when it clicked!

There was a thumb screw…and a metal disc with a funny cut out that had a thread hole…they fitted together. I took them over to my 201 and peered inside the slot…yup, pretty sure that’s two parts found!

Perhaps this miserably beat up looking accessory tin is actually a Magic Tin!

I imagined my repairer/restorer guy popping bits in it as he found or salvaged them with the intent to put it all together once he had everything and now I can finish his work!

Ok, maybe that’s going a little too far…

There wasn’t any sort of extra washer for the tension assembly but I bet I can buy one of those cheaply online and maybe after I learn a bit more about the model I could find a sort of exploded parts list to help me work out the other bits and bobs and what else I am missing.

I was feeling happier already.

To the Internet!

As you might imagine, a company name like “Universal” is extremely difficult to Google and since we are talking pre-internet the only way I could probably find out more is to look it up old-style hard copy in a old company register somewhere.

What I did learn is that this style of Japanese manufactured machine is more commonly referred to as an HA-1 Generic or a Singer Class 15 “clone”, clone is in quotation marks because it isn’t an exact copy, although many Singer parts are interchangeable.

A cheeky visit to the Singer ID website and I also discovered that the closest Singer my machine represents is a 15-30.

I also learnt that there are over 5000 different “brands” of these clone machines that were made in Japan by more than 15 different companies. During the 1930s a combination of weak yen and trade restrictions meant it was cheaper to produce machines locally and their domestic sewing machine manufacturing began.

After WWII there were a lot of people looking for work, plenty of idle machine shops and Singer’s patent had expired, manufacturing of these machines (most commonly based on the Singer 15 & 99 class machines) increased in earnest and Japan began to export.

Some machines were given American or European sounding names to appeal to the overseas markets and they didn’t just come in black. They came in metallics or flat colours of pink, green, blue, yellow and more! They were well made and often ran more quietly and smoother than their Singer equivalents. Any retailer could purchase a clone machine and have it badged to sell under their own brand.

Here is how I imagined the story of my machine went:

Mr (or Mrs) Entrepreneurial Kiwi thinks these new fandangled sewing machine things seem to be pretty whiz bang popular! They decide they better get on board and start their own sewing machine company pronto. Ohh but those pretty black Singers are quite expensive! There must be a market for a cheaper machine…hmmm…those Japanese ones seem like quite good quality, I’ll ask them to badge some up for me. I’ll call my new company Universal Sewing Machines, it sounds like a quality international brand and it will be a difficult name for a  collector to Google in the future!

I’m off on an imaginary sewing tangent again, sorry, let me backstitch… ;)

There is the plan, it is a “best case scenario”, fingers crossed kind of thing, please excuse me while I share my nerdy little flow chart:

This is not going to be a quick project for me. Instead it will be something to tinker away at over the next few weeks and months but, having said that, I most definitely do not want this to languish into years. So, I’ll keep you posted :)

I am also working on a new page for my top menu that will mention each of my machines (modern & vintage) and their stories/links to posts as they crop up, I’ll let you know when it is live.

Thanks for reading! :)

They are multiplying, all the better for taking over the world (*evil laugh)

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FO: Hellloooo Cindy!

Are you ready? Because here is my oldest Un-photographed Finished Object, photographed, finally!:

My “ode to the 1950s” swimsuit model pose…I need to get myself a sailor hat!

It is the Cindy swimsuit from BurdaStyle, a two piece bather with ruched sweet-heart halter neck top and separate bikini bottoms with ruffle. The ruching is very flattering across the tum tum and the ruffle attached to the bikini bottoms gives that little bit of extra coverage for your confidence.

I downloaded this pattern for free back in the good old days when new patterns were released each Monday and we weren’t bombarded with spam and advertisements…ahh, those were the days…now it’s a $3.50 download which I guess isn’t a bad price for a cute bathing suit.

Looking, looking..that’s Kapiti Island, a nature reserve, on the right.

This was my first ever attempt at making a swimsuit. I was living in Perth at the time (I am guessing I made this in early 2009) and because I was quite proud of my efforts I intended to photograph it at the beach immediately…but it just never happened.

When In-the-mood-for-a-swim Hubby suggested a day trip to the beach at QEII Park on Wellington Anniversary I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share it with you all while knocking one of my Re-Sew-lutions on the head at the same time!

Please be appreciative of my bravery, this is the least amount of clothing I have ever been photographed in!

It is not really a swimming swimsuit, more of a lie-under-the-beach-umbrella-looking-pretty kind of swimsuit.

I am still very proud of this make but I admit it is not 100% perfect.

Out of about 15 “splashing” photos, this is the best one.
I need more practise but it was a lot of fun!

Things I would do differently if I made this swimsuit again:

More length to the bodice, maybe as much a 5cm! It rides up, probably a cause of the cute and flattering ruching, but I have a long torso and generally prefer a bit more length in my tops so I normally add that into the bodice of most Burda/BurdaStyle patterns.

Add in some bust support. This pattern isn’t great for a C/ D-on-a-good-day bust. I think the low back doesn’t help so perhaps a strap across the upper back like the Alison pattern and building in some bra cups would help it a lot.

Reduce the width of the crotch in the bikini bottoms. It is wiiiiiiiiide and bunches/folds uncomfortably at each side.

Add a bit more width at the back of the bikini bottoms for better bum coverage. It is a tad skimpy and I was constantly plucking them out of you-know-where…

Use my elasticator foot on my overlocker for a more rtw looking finish. The zig-zag is ok, it looks fine in fact, it’s strong, stretchy and tidy. When I decided to make this swimsuit I had already bought my overlocker but not very long before hand. It came with extra feet including an elasticator foot that feeds the elastic at a constant controlled stretch while overlocking it in place. It’s very cool and I have played with it quite a bit since but at the time it was just a bit too much to take in all at once: First swimsuit, new overlocker, tensions!, elasticator foot, etc…

Remember not to use a straight stitch! I stitched the long seam on the halter strap with a straight stitch, I have no idea why I did that, I knew better back then too. So it does’t really stretch on that edge and digs into my neck rather than stretching, it’s a bit uncomfortable but not a big deal.

Red toes!

Ok, I think you’ll agree that’s enough of my legs for one day! ;)

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Beyond the UFO pile: Simplicity 1802 (also sewing bloggers are AWESOME!)

When a sewing pattern has you in tears and questioning your ability to sew at all…it’s time to let it go.

Sometimes there is no saving a failed project, it’s not always about making a muslin, fit adjustments, expert advice…sometimes it’s just a crap pattern and you are better off to just put it down forever and move on.

I’ve been working on Simplicity 1802 (aka The very Belated Birthday Dress) for about a month. On Saturday I intended the big push to solve all the bodice fitting problems and get it finished for the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network meet on Sunday.

It did not go well.

On Saturday afternoon, after a lot of hard work, I had a small cry. I was just so frustrated and upset, it was all so stupid, it’s only fabric! Unfortunately I had fallen in love with this project. It was exactly what I was aiming for colour/fabric wise. I was SO EXCITED, I didn’t want to give it up, I didn’t want it to beat me.

But it had beaten me and it made me not want to even consider another project. I wandered half-dressed in a poorly fitting bodice down stairs to the Mannexe where I tearfully told my husband that I was terrible at this sewing business and I didn’t know why I bothered…

OK, I was emotional, that was clearly an overreaction, but I’m sure I am not the only one who’s been there. We don’t often share our fails on our blogs but they happen to everyone, and we should share them. It’s taken me the whole long weekend to realise it but there is no shame in a UFO (or a project that is beyond a UFO) if you learn from it. I think of myself as a fairly experienced and confidant sewist, I’ll give anything a go and I often succeed, so it might help some of you to know that it can happen to anyone.

I was going to go over in detail all the warning signs I ignored and the things I did to try and save this project.

How I should have listened to the little birdie who whispered to me that she had heard strange things about the draft of the Cynthia Rowley patterns for Simplicity.

How I should have been suspicious at the lack of FO images in a Google Image search (just two!).

How I unpicked and re-sewed the same two seams 20 times each (no exaggeration).

How by trying the bodice on after each correction combined with the lack of stay-stitching across the bottom of the bodice now meant it had stretched longer that the interfaced waistband.

How bemused I was at pattern instructions that would leave a lined dress with several exposed internal seams.

I even had photos and a sketch to illustrate my epiphany about the draft of the bodice pattern in general…

But I’ve moved on now.

I deleted most of the draft post I thumped into the computer on Saturday afternoon after my husband bought me a cup of tea and told me to give it up.

He said,

“Maybe it’s just a crap pattern, you should just make something else.”

He was right…but he also wouldn’t let me back into my sewing room. Apparently I’d had enough for one day. Sigh, he was right about that too!

Don’t tell him I told you ;)

So I didn’t rush to make something else for the bloggers meet, instead I had a fun Sunday afternoon with the most amazing group of girls who didn’t care that I was wearing a wrap dress I’d made in 2010. We all looked fabulous, as you would expect, and we enjoyed a deliciously varied pot-luck picnic and talked of sewing and life and cooed over a very serious looking baby Drake.  Earlier Johanna and I each received the home sewists pièce de résistance, The Unsolicited Compliment.

High five!

The online sewing community is the most encompassing, positive group of people I have ever been apart of and I have the immense luck (and joy!) to be able to meet many of those amazing women in real life.

Wellington’s weather didn’t disappoint either, I wasn’t worried, not even for a bit ;)

Now allow me to bombard you with photos:

A very small portion of the Wellington Botanic Gardens, glorious!

Nikki, Juliet, Kat, Maryanne, Emily & Johanna

Mmmmm!

Calzone

Les tarts avec gelèe

Delicious!

No other picnickers were harmed in the opening of the bubbles, we swear

We found a random stranger to take our group photo, and since we were in front of the stairs it seemed only right to do a serious Sewing School photo shoot:

Kat & Drake, Emily (new member yeah!) Maryanne, Juliet
Johanna, myself & Nikki (photo courtesy of Kat, random Photoshopping by me)

And then we tried out our Blue Steel impressions…they may need a little more work ;)

Photo courtesy of Nikki

Almost everyone else has already posted their version of events so why don’t you go see what Kat, Juliet, Nikki and Johanna had to say about it?

I snuck off to Global Fabrics afterwards with Juliet to help her spend a voucher, not that she needed any encouragement, but there’s nothing quite like a little group enabling. We scored an additional Unsolicited Compliment to the tally, this time for Juliet.

Another high five!

I saw the beautiful fabric from the failed project in the $8 bin (I think I originally paid $12.95/m at The Fabric Warehouse) – so I grabbed a couple more meters, determined that one failed project didn’t mean I couldn’t have a dress made from this pretty cotton print. I picked up a second bolt too, it’s a strange pink and blue/green diagonal strip and it smelt really weird, like bad fish, but I was assured it would wash out. I have no idea what it was from, maybe the dye? But both have had a pre-wash now and the smell is gone.

$8/m cottons

Monday was Wellington Anniversary Day so Hubby and I spent the day at the beach. We photographed my oldest un-photographed FO (I’ll share that with you tomorrow, yeah, go New Years Resolution!) and then in the afternoon I sat down and started to go through my fabric stash.

I love my stash.

I know that is horribly superficial and materialistic sounding but, like my home library, I consider it a beautifully curated collection of my favourite authors, except that these authors are colours and prints in the genre of jersey and cotton sateen, amongst many others ;)

(Librarian friends please forgive my gross overuse of similes)

My stash – January 2013

When I sit on the floor and pull out the pretty pieces it’s like fabric shopping in my studio, it makes me happy, but more importantly it makes me want to sew!

I chose this beautiful $5 remnant I picked up from The Fabric Warehouse in April 2012 and began to look through my patterns.

This is me getting back on my sewing horse:

I have a few dress patterns out at the moment for inspiration and I am seriously thinking of declaring 2013 to be The Year of the Dress…for me anyway ;)

Now here is a good segue to another post I was going to write separately but I’m smooshing on to the end of this one instead:

from Sew I Sewed This (click for source)

My 2013 Re-Sew-lutions:

  • No plan? No worries!
  • More Sewing Meetups…MOAR!
  • No more crying over stupid patterns
  • No imagined pressure, no imagined guilt
  • Lots of pretty dresses please
  • Re-learn to enjoy photographing my FOs, have fun doing it
  • Maybe a bit of stash busting but I kind of do that anyway ;)

Thanks for reading my bumbling rambling post, I’m off to do some fun sewing now xx

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#FMSphotoaday December – Week Three

I have a big catch up to do for the photoaday challenge. If you are interested I am still participating but I made the mistake of using Pinterest to upload and share my photos. Now it is being a little b*tch and has decided to stop displaying some of my images and seems to randomly change it’s mind which ones every day or so.

Can you tell that I might be mildly annoyed by this? When was the last time I swore, or politely tried to, about something on my blog? That’s right, never.

This breaks my links and leaves blank spaces but if I re-upload them now they will be out of order. This does not satisfy my nerdy neat and tidy tendencies, grrrr! I also left my flash drive with my original images at work over the holidays so I just kind of gave up on the posting side of it until this week.

So, long story short, I have just wasted several minutes uploading and re-linking everything over to the tried-and-true Photobucket. Who needs lunch anyway huh? So please excuse me while I post my catch-up weeks over the next few days.

In a more positive spin I am really enjoying the whole challenge and it’s a lot of fun seeing how everyone else interprets the word prompts. I used to be heavily into photography in my younger years and even considered doing formal training to be a photographer. Before the whole Digital- SLR revolution (which is awesome by the way!) I inherited my Dad’s old-school Cosina CT 1 Super when he upgraded to a new (which would now be old) Pentax. I have a modern Canon D-SLR now and taking these photos (usually with my cell phone or small point-and-shoot Sony I keep in my handbag) makes me crave for a day out with my “real” camera…

December 14. Green: New recycling box for our waste printer consumables at work

December 15. Outdoors: Checking in on my tomato plants!

December 16. Something you made: A softie Rudolf for the 2012 NZ Handmade Christmas Ornament Swap

December 17. On the Floor: My new shoes

December 18. Makes You Feel Merry: “Secret Santa” shopping for Hubby – actually they play “Thieving Santa” at his work – this gift was “stolen” 5 times!

December 19. Something Beginning with ‘S’: Site Safe Steel-cap Safety Shoes (ok, boots, sorry, couldn’t resist the alliteration) for site visits

December 20. Weather: Checking out the forecast online