[Editor’s note: Part I of this saga can be found here. Don’t worry: there are only two parts to this saga.]
Well, I had to see if this 1967 Singer Style-Mate 348 would actually work. Turning the ON knob while sitting on the floor of a back bedroom at an estate sale is not exactly a real test of whether this sewing machine would actually connect two pieces of fabric faster than I could with a needle and thread.
In 1967, diagrams didn’t really need to be all that clear. A woman just knew how to thread a damn sewing machine the way a man knew how to drive a Chevrolet Corvair.
This thread tensioning knob has a lot more slots and grooves in it than this diagram lets on. I slid the thread in there and hoped for the best.
This thread, by the way, is from Hubbo’s mom’s collection. Missing her! Her craft was public policy and child welfare, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have a mending basket like everybody else.
I dug up a stack of Anna Maria Horner fabrics that have been patiently waiting for their destiny. Fabrics, your time has come.
By the way, in 1967, the Singer Company was making TV sets. “Battery pack available at moderate extra charge.” That’s the battery pack behind the TV set—it’s the same size as the TV set.
This is so much like my mom’s Necchi Supernova.
You have control over stitch length and width. You can wind a bobbin. You can go backward or forward. You can use plastic wheels called cams to create decorative stitches that I have never seen used on a piece of clothing, ever.
That’s about all. Whatever adjustment you want to make, you move a lever or turn a wheel. It is 100 percent analog.
Here’s what happened when I lined up the fabric, lowered the presser foot, and stepped on the foot controller:
A jillion tiny stitches! What a blast!
The back side, however, revealed a significant problem with the stitch tension. My user guide told me the needle thread tension was way too loose. So I turned the knob from 4 to 2. Maybe half as much would be the right amount. Whatever.
The next run of stitches resulted in smaller loops but still not the perfect interlocking of two threads at equal tension. This looked a WHOLE lot like the embroidery couching we did at our Tilleke Schwarz workshop, except that this took ten seconds instead of an entire week.
Unintentional couching. I could never repeat this, I’m sure. But it looks kind of cool.
More adjustments, getting closer. At this point, studying the threading diagram, I diagnosed my problem as Not Following The Diagram. I missed at least two eyeholes, including the crucial one directly above the needle, which meant that my thread was never going to behave properly no matter how much I fooled with that thread tension knob.
Once I threaded the machine properly, it was smooth sailing. I zigged, I zagged. I attached these two pieces of Anna Maria Horner fabric so thoroughly that it was impossible to turn it right side out. I kind of like the quiet side of these vibrant fabrics.
At this point, I began to worry that I was going to burn out my old/new sewing machine. Who knows when it had its last maintenance? 1987? The user manual tells me exactly where to apply the drops, so I’ve ordered up Singer Oil and Singer Lubricant. NOT the same thing, people. Do not be fooled.
Until then, I’ve found a new world of vintage sewing machine enthusiasts. There is a lot of strongly held opinion in the world of old sewing machines. I love discovering yet another community of people all in about something fairly esoteric, especially when the overall agreed-upon premise of the group is “love your gear.” Now, with my 1967 Singer Style-Mate 348, I’m right in there. I’m totally knocked out by all the sewing machine stories everybody shared on yesterday’s post. Really considering renaming the blog Mason-Dixon Sewing Machine Maintenance, hope that’s OK.
I actually do believe there’s a ghost in this machine, or in the room, or in my head. My mom would be laughing her ass off at my fooling with this machine—she was always quick to try new technology, bought an early home computer just to see what it did. I can hear her saying, “Why don’t you get a Janome, Ann? What is wrong with you?”