I inherited my machine from an old lady in my mother’s neighborhood who was moving. I never met her, my mother pulled it off her tree lawn. She neglected to make sure it had all its pieces, however, and in the picture below you can see how the spool pin is held in place with Play-doh and Elmer’s glue. I accepted it more because it’s a nifty antique than because I had any great sewing plans.

My Singer 15-91
My Singer 15-91

This is a somewhat muddled topic, part of my lack of skill in this area is due to having been under the largely unconscious impression that to be taken seriously as a person, I had to eschew “feminine” things. That’s a fun post for another day. Suffice it to say that, despite any feminist protestations, something weird has been happening to me lately. After months of pushing myself, something seems to have clicked and I suddenly feel like a purebred hunting dog that’s never been allowed in the woods before.

Add to this what I mentioned in my opening post, my unusually curvy figure – My waist is 33″, my hips 46″. Not as slim as I’d like to be, but hardly obese. It’s that 13″ difference that makes it impossible to find clothes that fit, whether I’m a size 4 or size 14. I’ve spent most of my adult life somewhere in between, cinching my pants and hoping one day I’d find a pencil skirt that fit. But recently the stupidity of sitting here looking at this machine hit me. If I can build electronic components, surely I can get a sewing machine to work.

If I did know the lady who had it before me, I would ask her why she never cleaned it.

Just one piece of the solidified thread dust came out from under the bobbin case.
Just one piece of the solidified thread dust came out from under the bobbin case.

I feel confident approaching an old machine like this because they were designed to be self-serviceable (It says so in the manual!) and so I can feel free to unscrew this and that to clean it. The bobbin wasn’t turning properly so I flipped up the machine and opened it up. Wow! It was more than a little gross.

Filthy bobbin casing pieces
Filthy bobbin casing pieces
That's vintage grime!
That’s vintage grime!

I took the whole thing apart and rubbed it down with isopropyl alcohol. It seems much happier now, but still catches and I’m going to have to look at it again sometime.

All clean!
All clean!

Following the manual that my unknown predecessor was kind enough to leave in the drawer, I got it threaded, checked the motor lubricant and set to work figuring out this tension stuff. Most of the videos out there were not very helpful, because form factor on modern machines is different enough that things are in completely different places and look totally different. Sometimes I’m not sure which to be more embarassed about – My compulsion to sew or the fact that I’m 31 years old and have almost no idea what I’m doing!

Adjusting the tension
Adjusting the tension
Oh no don't look at the back!
Oh no don’t look at the back!

I have been secretly working on a quilt made from old clothes my family discarded over the last few years, it’s not the most beautiful thing in the world but it will trigger happy memories later on. I’ve more than doubled the size of it in just the last week!

This is the first square I made on the machine
This is the first square I made on the machine

The other night I sat down around 9pm to make some squares, and not only did I miss a key plot development in the show I had on, I was only disturbed around 12:30 when Hubby came to say he was going to bed. It’s fun getting to know the machine, and putting down the seams is both soothing and invigorating. In a few weeks I hope to be making my first new clothes. This feels like taking control of my image, both inwardly and outwardly. I am the definition of curvy, and I deserve clothes that fit. Indulging in traditionally feminine passtimes is not a slippery slope to vapid dollhood….

Right? Seems like there’s still plenty of danger of being pigeonholed in the girly corner if anyone catches you there. Which is why I’m doing a lot of this. Next post will be more general-interest.

1 Comment

  1. I think it’s kinda cool how in the last few years, I’ve gotten more involved with the audio stuff, which has traditionally (if you will) been your area of the world, and that now, you’re getting more involved with the sewing stuff, which has traditionally been my area of the world ^_^

    Also, keep in mind I go about the world with long, flowing hair and I very, very, very rarely ever wear pants in public–it’s ok to be feminine. (I’ve struggled with that too, and for some of the same reasons, I’m sure.) I think it’s awesome that you’re eschewing those unhelpful thoughts that want to steer you away from something you’ll think you’ll really enjoy. I bet it’s pretty empowering, too, to be planning to make your own clothes. I know it’s empowering for me to make my own clothes!

    Let me know if you have any questions about anything sewing-related : ) I can’t promise that I’ll have all the answers, but I’d love to try and help!


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