It’s the little things…

I picked up a new (old) vintage machine today and boy does it have a story! As well as some beautiful provenance to match it’s beautiful cabinet. I haven’t even really had a chance to look at the actual machine but if the outside is anything to go by…

It’s still in the boot of my car because I need a second person to help me get it upstairs and that will have to wait until tomorrow….which reminded me that I was going to try and catch up on blogging about my (apparently ever expanding) machine collection.

That’s going well isn’t it? 😉

So here’s my lucky find from November 2015 (see, I told you guys I seriously needed to catch up!)

Obviously no vintage sewing machine collection is complete without a Singer Featherweight…actually no vintage sewing machine collection is ever complete…but now my little collection includes one.

They are a little hard to find in New Zealand, even harder to find in Wellington. More often they pop up in Christchurch and Auckland but cost a fortune to send my way due to their weight*. It only recently dawned on me that Fashionable Younger Sister lives in Auckland and so I altered my TradeMe search settings and then coaxed her into being my mule.

Three popped up for sale at the same time so I had my pick of the bunch and I think this was what kept the cost from getting too crazy. I know that sentence doesn’t make much sense if you don’t know what I paid for mine…but let’s just say they can go for in excess of NZD$350, regardless of condition, and I paid a lot less than that for an almost pristine machine complete with accessories, original case (with key!) and original manual.

I liked two out of the three the best. One of these was slightly older – without checking serial numbers the face plate is a good giveaway: In general you’ll find the Egyptian-like scroll work on the older machines. Newer machines have the more basic looking vertical striations. I ended up pursuing the more modern machine because it looked in much better condition.

Early Scroll Pattern v. Later Striated Faceplates from Singer Sewing Info

After I won the auction FYS was the best sister ever and braved a drive into a less-than-desirable suburb to pick it up for me. Don’t worry, she took her new beau with her for protection (I think he’s a keeper, just sayin’). She arrived in Welly for Christmas 2015, carrying it onto the plane as hand luggage in such a way as to make it look light…as a feather.

I picked FYS and the Featherweight up a few days later on my way to pick up my next vintage sewing machine purchase. For a short while (and not for the last time – see April 2016’s yet to be blogged Brother 190 and Pfaff 332-260) my boot contained TWO vintage sewing machines…more on what’s in the other case later…

Like usual I took lots of photos of the featherweight so if you are interested in seeing more you can find them here.

Check out my entire collection on my Weapons of Choice page.

*While the Singer 211 does indeed weight less than many of my other vintage machines, it’s still much heavier than a feather…

My new NEW Singer machine and one for you too!

Hi everyone! Guess what? I have a new sewing machine!

And it’s actually new!

So obviously it’s from Singer and it’s mine until they give me something else.

But don’t get too green with envy ok?

(Hehe, see what I did there?)

Because guess what? My machine is green and you’ll be tickled pink when you see the raspberry version I have to give away to one lucky NZ reader!

Keep reading… 🙂

So what’s this machine all about? It’s a Singer Simple 3223, an entry level mechanical sewing machine aimed at beginners and here in NZ it comes in green (ok, aqua) and raspberry.

So pretty.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. I am not a beginner sewist. At the most you might catch me calling myself advanced intermediate. So you might be thinking, why did they give you this machine? Good question!

When I think about my current machine (it’s not a Singer, so we won’t talk about it in too much detail, you understand…) it’s not particularly fancy either. It has a lot more stitches than the Simple but really what stitches do you actually use for garment sewing? I use straight stitch, zig zag, blind hem, I insert zippers, I sew on buttons (because I hate hand sewing) and I make button holes.

That’s pretty much it.

So what can the Simple do? Well, it does straight stitch, zig zag and blind hem. It can insert zippers, sew on buttons and make button holes!

Tick, tick, tick…tick!

I’m going to give you a quick review because I’ll be sewing my next Singer Sewing project solely on this machine and then I’ll be able to give you a better idea of what it’s like to “live” with in a future post. Fluffing around on fabric scraps is fun but sewing an entire garment? That’s a real test of endurance!

The Singer Simple 3223 is a fun, retro looking mechanical sewing machine aimed at beginner sewists. It would also make an excellent backup or travel machine, it’s got a great price tag and it’s pretty colours really stand out among all the white and grey machine options.

I got to choose what colour I wanted and I really struggled. I can tell you what I think of this machine but I am afraid you’re on your own when it comes to choosing which colour!

It arrived in a colour matched box (squee!) and was very well protected, snuggled in a polystyrene inner and plastic bag. Immediately inside the box was the instruction manual and DVD, a dust cover and the electronic foot.

First impressions: It looks like a typical mechanical sewing machine but very pretty. The knobs and machine markings are colour coordinated, there is a thread cutter on the side of the machine and it has a front loading bobbin. The standard presser foot is attached (snap on) and the front sewing bed is nice and deep.

Inside the accessory compartment was a nice selection of standard accessories. There were a couple I didn’t recognise so I had to look them up! They turned out to be a fancy shaped screw driver, a darning plate (to cover the feed dogs in place of being able to lower them) and two different thread spool caps.

The full list of standard accessories is:

  • All purpose foot
  • Zipper foot
  • Buttonhole foot
  • Button sewing foot
  • Seam ripper/brush
  • Edge/quilting guide
  • Needles
  • 2x Spool holder caps
  • 3x Bobbins
  • Screwdriver
  • Darning plate

Ok, Harriet has approved the new addition, now let’s sew!

First thing I noticed was that the thread spool sits sideways and that’s what the caps are for! It might seem strange for me to point that out but this is new for me.

Secondly, I didn’t even need to glance at the manual to start filling the bobbin (in Singer red, of course!). Threading and bobbin winding threading sequence is nicely indicated on the top of the machine with arrows and numbers without being too “Fisher Price” obvious.

I did check about declutching! Unlike most machines I’ve used you don’t need to pull the handwheel to declutch, it’s automatic once you push the bobbin over against the bumper. With a full bobbin I threaded up following the markings, it’s all pretty conventional.

If you do need the instructions they are filled with lots of great diagrams and there is even a DVD if you learn better that way.

I started out sewing on some calico and went through each stitch option before trying out the 4-step buttonhole. Apart from the zig-zag stitch, you can change the stitch length but not the width. All the stitches were really neat and straight and there are 23 of them to choose from including the stretch stitches.

I posted a pic of my first sewing trial on Instagram and was immediately asked if the machine could sew denim. That sounded like a good test to me! I dug out some denim and changed to a jeans needle.

I folded the denim so I had a section each two and three layers thick (because who sews just one layer?!) and started with standard thread for straight stitch and triple straight stitch. It looked good, no complaints from the Simple so far and this denim is fairly thick, I use it for patching. Next I switched out the top thread for a heavy duty top-stitching thread and repeated the process.

Single and triple straight stitch looked great and even the decorative stitches sewed fine! The Simple didn’t sound like it was under any duress and I only had to tweak the tension a little.

I was on a role now so I switched back to standard thread and changed the needle to stretch. I found some cotton knit and tested out the zig-zag and stretch stitch options. No problems again and the fabric stayed nice and stretchy without popping any stitches.

This little machine actually really impressed me! I honestly didn’t think it would eat the denim so easily and if I am brutally honest I did not have particularly high hopes for stretch sewing…but it proved me wrong and lives up to the long standing Singer name.

Ok but it can’t be all roses right? No, it cannot. But they aren’t total deal breakers as you will see. Remember this machine sells for only a little over NZD$300 (on special until the end of May for just NZD$299) and as we’ve already seen it’s pretty capable….and also really pretty.

So, what don’t I like?

First thing I noticed: No number markings on the needle plate. It’s broken down into 1/8th lines  but they aren’t numbered. I was quite surprised when I first noticed this because seam allowance is a really important thing to keep track of as a beginner…and always. Plus I would expect a machine marketed to NZ/Aus would have both metric and imperial markings. Needle plates are removable and therefore replaceable…and that’s the subtle hint I dropped at Singer.

Has it stopped me sewing? No. I’ve started my next project already and I’m using my magnetic seam guide to keep my stitching in the right spot. Another option would be to use pretty washi tape, you can relocate it as needed and I‘d be lying if I said I’ve never done that myself on my other machine. Several times I’ve had tape markings on the plastic bed halfway between the needle plate and the upright arm!

Secondly, the bobbin door is spring loaded and opens just short of completely flat. You can’t fold it much further down because it gets hung up a piece of plastic that sticks out. It’s not a big deal but at first I found it a little awkward to put the bobbin in. This is also possibly a result of the extra deep sewing bed which is a good feature for new sewists. Hey, you can’t please everyone! I do have pretty big hands and I’m just used to a bit more room on my other machine, anyone else might not even notice 😉

That’s kind of it…so what’s next? Well I’m currently sewing a dress out of very naughty slippery fabric so that’ll be a good challenge for the Simple and then a new coat for winter…that’s a big ask right? But I think she’ll be ok…watch this space…


Now, to thank you for reading my little Singer Simple 3223 review I have the pleasure of giving away a raspberry version of this machine to one lucky NZ reader. So exciting!

To enter jump on over to the Singer NZ Simple 3223R product page to learn more about the machine, check out the description (big hint drop). While you’re there look out for the special competition code (you’ll need it to fill out the entry form – it is not the sewing machine’s model code!) then just hit the button below!


Sorry this competition is now closed.
What do you think of the new colourful Singer machines? I’d love to hear all about your current machine (or lack of…), tell me in the comments below 🙂

Good luck everyone!

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I was given the Singer 3223G Simple Sewing Machine you see me using in this post to review as part of my work with Singer Sewing Company Australia New Zealand. All opinions expressed in this post are honest and my own. I freely chose to review this product because I genuinely believe it is a good product, I enjoyed using it and will continue to use it in the future. My samples were stitched on calico, denim and cotton knit using Singer Universal, Jeans and Ball Point needles, Gütermann 100% Polyester Sew All and 100% Polyester Extra Strong M782 thread.

My Singer 99K-13

I’ve fallen really far behind with taking photos of my completed makes lately. Two dresses and two robes (one of which is my Named Asaka that Nikki has dropped a “subtle” hint about 😉 ) have posts written but no photographs yet.

On top of that I am about to hem a third dress, a fourth (another version of the second dress) is half way done. Dress number five is cut out and yesterday I wore my Lady Skater for the first time in ages and instantly remembered that I needed 3 more of them…sigh…also I may have accidentally bought the new Victory Hannah dress along with 10 of my work colleagues.

My office is really social, we have everything from the usual sports teams (cricket, netball, spontaneous lunchtime mountain biking) to drawing clubs. A brief lunchtime chat revealed an unexpected count of 11 ladies who sewed and 1 who wanted to learn. There was some sort-of-serious joking about staring a sewing club and now 12 of us meet every second Tuesday after work on our mezzanine level to sew.

We may have just found our Sewing Club uniform, or at least a fun group project for the more confident among us to lead the newbies astray and then we’ll see if anyone notices when we all rock up to work on a Wednesday in the same dress…I’m actually not at all sure it will suit me but I’m keen to try it if only for the fact that it’s the most interesting indie pattern I’ve seen for a long time! I already have fabric picked out that I am happy to sacrifice.

This weekend is a long one so maybe I’ll find time to take photos of my outstanding makes but in the mean time I’ve been busy adding to my vintage sewing machine collection. I have several new/old machines to write about and it’s easier to take and edit photos of them instead!

The last machine I wrote about was my Elna One but I’m actually starting with the machine I bought immediately after the Universal Apollo, way back in June of 2013.

This little 99K-13 came up on TradeMe with two others all from the same seller. A smaller version of the 201K that started this all, I decided one of them must be mine!

They were all in slightly different condition and each came with a different selection of accessories. I thoroughly scrutinised all the photos and ranked them in order of preference. There was a bit of interest but in the end I won my first choice for $36.00.

When it came time for pickup I discovered the seller was my local Mary Potter Hospice so it was doubly nice to see my money going towards a really great charity.

My machine came with the original wooden carry case (and key!) and the knee controller clips nicely inside this case. It also came with the original oil tin and motor lubricant tube and several feet. The instruction book, which is suspect was not originally with this machine, is missing its cover and I also received a book about the motor.

The third book is for a zig-zag attachment (image above) that sadly wasn’t with the machine. I need to find one!

(edit: or maybe not!!)


The “K” is for Kilbowie, the factory in Clydebank, Scotland where she was manufactured and the serial number places this in a group of 30 000 machines made in 1946.

She needed a light clean but she sews beautifully. All I needed to do was change out the little rubber bumper on the bobbin winder, the belt was fine.

What I love the most about this machine (apart from EVERYTHING else) is the bobbin winder assembly. It’s so clever and it really illustrates what I love the most about vintage machines. I wish I could wind all my bobbins with her.

Permit me a little nerd-out here (jump ahead if it gets too much) – the whole bobbin winder assembly runs off of the balance wheel. The bobbin sits on the spindle, located by a little pin and then you lock the whole mechanism down so that the rubber bumper is against the balance wheel.

A tongue of metal sits against the bobbin and is part of the spring-loaded stop latch that holds it in place. Just like with modern machines you first need to de-clutch (release the stop motion clamp screw) and then you can begin to fill the bobbin. As the bobbin fills and the thread on the bobbin gets thicker it lifts up the metal tongue of the stop latch. When the bobbin is full the tongue is at the right angle to automatically release the catch and the whole mechanism returns to its original position. The rubber bumper is no longer against the balance wheel and so it stops turning.

At the same time there is a threaded section on the spindle turning a toothed disc , called the worm wheel, hehe. On the back of this disc is a raised circular section that sits off-center so acts as a cam. The thread guide sitting beside this has a little extension that is held against the cam on the back of the worm wheel with a spring and works as a kind of cam follower. the cam action moves the thread guide back and forth feeding the top thread onto the bobbin evenly.

It’s only 20 seconds but I could watch this all day long, it is truly delightful.

I recorded this video for a Pecha Kucha style presentation at work. The night before I got home late and still needed to get a video of the bobbin winder. The only camera in the house that could record video AND attach to my tripod had a flat battery, so…

The 99K was made from 1911 until the mid 1950s and the only significant design change during that time was the stitch length adjuster.

My machine has the earliest example, a simple screw in knob with no numbers to indicate stitch length. Later this changed to a lever with an indicating scale of stitches per inch and later they separated the scale out with a little indicator in a slot of its own.

You can also see the bobbin winder design simplifies, the worm wheel and fun little waving thread guide disappears. None of my other machines, modern or vintage, have this feature and they all fill their bobbins evenly. I wonder if this is perhaps due to how modern thread is spooled?

So that’s it.

I just think this little machine is really beautiful and so I wanted to share it with you, sorry it took me almost 3 years!

I have some more photos if you are interested, on their own page here.

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September in Photos – disguised as a catch-up

I’m a bit shocked that it’s been a month since I last posted, that’s how quickly time has been flying by for me lately!

Work and life occasionally just become ridiculous and something has to give. I won’t bore you with details, this is a sewing blog after all but the good news is that last week I had a holiday and I am feeling super refreshed and now I feel like I am finally on top of all things so watch out world! 🙂

So, in brief, here is what I got up to these last few weeks:

I bought this sewing machine:

Barbie! And it’s wind up, it really “sews”!

I also bought this one:

Baby Singer – will post more about her soon

My newest cross stitch project is becoming recognisable:

Come to the dark side…

I worked on a vintage blouse as a combined WSBN Teal Deal/TMS Vintage Pattern project and sort of failed – Time was not on my side and also I think it will be too big but I have promised to salvage it for a second group photo shoot in November with the two other girls that missed out:

Completed night classes in NZSL 1a and enrolled in 1b – starting Oct 16th:

Yeah!

Got serious with planning our kitchen renovation:

Realised I had too many unfinished projects lying around so finally finished Lady Grey and then pulled out my finished Lolita Patterns Sugarplum. I made the Sugar Plum for Indie Patterns Month as a pattern tester but have only just now gotten the go ahead to show photos on my blog…so now I need to take some photos!

Evil sewing machine is evil

I flew up to Auckland for a work conference:

Look how cute my tiny room was!

Then I went on a holiday:

Ohh volcano!

I walked up a volcano!:

Mt Tongariro – Ketetahi trail. You can just see the one of the Te Maari crater vents smoking away in the background. Last year it got grumpy and spat some big rocks out, destroying the Ketetahi hut.

Finished Vogue 1250 – need to take some photos.

Worked hard to try to finish Rainbow Swallows Shirt Dress – it just needs hemming – and again, photos – the story of my sewing-life right now!

Bought some patterns – these are not all for me!:

By Hand London goodies thanks to Penny at dressesandme.com

Then I bought some fabric – this is ALL for me!:

L to R: Black and grey geometric printed silk, some sort of lining with embossed flowers, ribbed knit, 3 meters of each, total $33.00, yeah!

Hunted through my patterns for pretty dresses for Frock-tober – Harri “helped”:

“Make this one!”

Paired some fabric with patterns and then pre washed the fabric, this caused it to rain, but I got it all dry eventually:

Pretty, pretty, pretty!

Then I traced all these patterns, I want to make ALL OF THEM!:

Camouflage Harri supervised the tracing process – it was hard work, many naps were taken:

ZzzzZZzzz…

Then she decided that my paper bin needed emptying…otherwise how else would she fit inside?:

Caught!

Harri and I agreed that as a reward for all my hard work I should cut out a dress – I chose Papercut’s La Sylphide in tiny super cute owls:

Thn I remembered that I also have this dress still waiting to be sewn up – all cut out in a beautiful silk/linen blend, oops:

And finally, last weekend, because I was not in the mood for photos and daylight savings has got me dreaming about summer, I began to plan Vege Garden v2.0:

Current Vege Garden v1.0 – I have marked out the new garden space in blue twine but then I changed my mind and drew some pictures instead.

A grand plan

Getting into the details

Then I helped hack down some trees that were too close to our retaining walls. We will re-pave the lower area, a garden shed and glass house will appear sometime in the future:

Before…

…after!

I think after my new vege beds are in I will begin to investigate the possibility of having some chickens, I think I’d quite like some chickens 🙂

And that’s about it! 🙂 Phew, regular service should resume shortly, happy sewing!

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