Vintage Sewing Machine

by Josh on January 21, 2010 · 8 comments

in Journal

I’m pretty sure the last time I used a sewing machine was my 8th grade home economics class.  That class must have made an impression, though, because I still remember sewing a nylon duffle bag, cooking “broiler burgers,” and nervously working alongside a female classmate whose body had developed more quickly than my self-confidence.

So with those dusty old home ec skills–and visions of homemade curtains–dancing in my head, I gave my new-to-me vintage sewing machine its first run.

My machine is a White De Luxe automatic sewing machine model 674.  I can’t find a date on the machine or the owner’s manual, but it’s old enough to be all metal, heavy, and made in Japan.  They really don’t make ’em like this anymore, and if they did you couldn’t buy a new one for the $60 I paid the guy on Craigslist.

White 674 Sewing Machine

For this first adventure with Ol’ Whitey I just wanted to get familiar with the parts and functions, and do some maintenance.  I oiled the lubrication points indicated in the owner’s manual and removed grime from nooks and crannies with cotton swabs dipped in alcohol.

Then I filled a couple bobbins and learned how to thread the machine to practice stitching.  After making some adjustments to the thread tension, bobbin thread tension and stitch length, my practices stitches were looking very promising.  I’ve still got a lot to learn about the sewing machine’s basic and advanced features– not to mention re-learning what I’ve forgotten about sewing since 8th grade, but an actual sewing project doesn’t feel that far off.

Are you a seamstress/seamster?  What advice would you give someone with modest goals just starting out?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

lynnor January 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Sounds fun! Maybe try just some covers for toss pillows and/or homemade napkins and placemats to start (and can always get fancy w/ the trim on the pillows if you are feeling brave).

Are you wanting house projects or clothing projects? Other ideas include bags, curtains, etc. Also invest in needles and maybe a good, general sewing book that “speaks” to you on how to do various stitches, how to troubleshoot tension, picking needle size, etc.

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Jenne January 21, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Potholders are super easy to make.
http://www.ehow.com/how_2311486_make-potholders.html

One of my first projects with a sewing machine was a one patch quilt. I don’t know if you have spare fabric laying around – old clothes/linens…but you could cut those into squares and just sew them together while you get the tension and feel for your machine worked out. I even keep scraps of material near my machine for when it starts acting up…I sew back and forth on the scraps while fiddling with stuff until it gets back to normal.

Curtains are easy too. If you wanted to go super basic..Just roughly measure how big you want them to be, and then turn over the edges and stitch..kinda like making a big tablecloth with finished [sewn] edges. Then you can just use those rings with clips to hang it.
http://oldhouse.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/12/making-curtains.html

Good luck! And I think it’s awesome you rescued an old machine. With a little TLC, they’re workhorses…and don’t need to go in the shop nearly as often as my computerized sewing machine.

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Will January 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm

This is GREAT! My mom used to have one of these old guys (or gals). They weight about 50lbs!
I can’t tell you how many elementary school photos owe their ‘stylishness’ to that old thing 🙂 She did everything from clothes to curtains, quilts to jackets. I’ve been looking for an insulated roman blind that she made (window quilt) They sure would be nice extra insulation on my old windows. She had me make a throw pillow cover once, and I remember that being a fairly simple project. Might be a good start. The big version is a duvet cover!

Have fun with that!! I’m jealous

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Cheryl January 22, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Curtains are easy – so your visions should turn into reality. Biggest challenges are measuring well, cutting straight, then sewing straight – piece of cake!

Just remember – side hems first, then rod pocket at top, then hang them to verify where the hem should be. In fact if they are fairly heavy, it doesn’t hurt to let them hang a few days before determining the hem – to let any wrinkles hang out and for any stretching to happen.

Be warned that “sheers” are more of a problem than heavier curtains – that stuff is slippery and a bear to sew. Lace is a bit of a problem too – so save those two types of curtains for later projects if you are inclined towards them (although Penneys usually has nice sheers on sale often enough that it doesn’t make sense to sew your own).

Good luck with the vintage machine – they are pretty much bullet-proof if treated well.

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Stacy January 23, 2010 at 11:29 pm

a seam ripper thingy. I recently brought out my barely functional cheapo 1980’s machine to make lucy a skirt. the online directions said to “buy a seam ripper thingy”. I laughed at that. Somehow I had one in my lil sewing kit. I used it a lot. Mistakes will be made, the seam ripper makes them easier to fix.

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Sandy January 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Great score on the sewing machine! You’re right — they don’t make them like that anymore. Now they are all plastic. Sigh.

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Josh January 24, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Great tips, everybody– thanks! I hadn’t thought of pillow covers or napkins/placemats as starter projects, but those are great suggestions. And I’m sure I’ll be needing a seam ripper thingy, too, Stacy.

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Roz February 19, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I just got the exact same machine (model, color, everything) a week ago, and your post is the only information I can pull on it – do you know of any other sources of information? My 674 came in perfect working condition but no manual or accessories, gah!

Good luck with the sewing, the old machines are the most fun to work on – they have character. I don’t know about you, but I get bored with flat, square projects. My suggestion would be to pick up a simple pattern or two (without zippers unless you want experience using your seam ripper thingy )… maybe a bag, or a funky stuffed animal.

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