A Bit of Sewing Machine Therapy
I can feel the cabin fever starting to build. I am dissatisfied with a lot of stuff right now, none of it really important in the grand scheme of things and nothing that is even worthy of a blog post, just stuff that is taking up space in my head. When I get like this, the best course of action is to change it up a bit. It’s not that I don’t want to sew—I happily would have worked on some projects today—but I needed a change of scenery.
I got out that 3/4-sized Singer 15 clone—badged an Ambassador—that I would like to use as my “take to class” machine. If I recall correctly, I bought this machine for $25 at the antique store in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. It was sitting outside (on a covered porch, but still). When I saw the case, I assumed it was a Singer 99 or a Spartan (also 3/4-sized machines), so I was delighted to find a mini 15 clone inside. These machines are not terribly common. Ambassador is typically a Morse brand, and indeed, the motor has a Morse badge on it.
This darling machine was in relatively good shape, although the motor was hanging awkwardly and the belt didn’t line up with the handwheel. The needle plate is a bit chewed up, which is often the result of an impatient sewist pulling the fabric through the machine and bending the needle. Those were the only issues.
This is a machine that was abused:
I am surprised (but pleased) that this poor thing didn’t get hauled to the landfill. This is a Singer 500A Rocketeer that I picked up at a thrift store in town. It was filthy, missing its nose door, and held together with a length of clothesline. This one was probably the most difficult machine rehab to date—and one of the first machines I worked on—but it rose from the ashes and has a permanent place in the collection. It sews very nicely.
Back to the Ambassador. The bobbin tire was obviously dried out:
And I could have made a felted cat toy from the lint that was jammed into the feed dogs:
I took off all the jewelry, removed the bobbin race and feed dogs, and popped everything into a warm bath of Dawn dish soap and OxiClean. The machine itself was bathed in non-pumice Goop and all the old oil cleaned out.
It has such a pretty faceplate:
A few hours’ worth of work and it’s all shined up and ready to sew!
I did have to fiddle with the motor a bit. I successfully avoided taking it apart—the wiring looked solid—but I had to monkey around to get the motor and bracket to work with the belt I had. Many sewing machine purists eschew stretch belts as being too hard on motors, but I’ve become a fan. I’ve got one on Vittorio and it has worked extremely well. Stretch belts avoid the issue of getting the proper belt length. (I have an entire Ziplock bag full of cogged belts in various lengths, none of which ever worked with any of my machines.)
This machine doesn’t have a light; the motor was plugged into a light/motor block with very old masking tape over the “light” side of the block. I find those light/motor blocks to be perfectly adequate and easier than wiring the machine into a terminal, but this one was pretty old. A search through my motor and foot pedal collection yielded up a new Alphasew foot pedal connected to a light/motor block. I’m not a huge fan of anything Alphasew—it’s the epitome of cheap Chinese-made goods—but I had this one and it worked for testing. If this machine does become one that I haul to classes on a frequent basis, I’ll spring for a nice electronic foot pedal and motor/light block.
I only got as far as oiling and then running the machine for a few minutes to make sure there were no issues. I still have to thread it and do some practice sewing, but that can wait for another day. Getting even this far did wonders for my mental health.