Necchi Supernova BU x2....

I have a good excuse this time but I'm not telling you until later.

I've been getting a lot of questions lately about vintage machines and my recommendations.  Somehow I keep coming back to the same machine and it's simply because it's the most versatile vintage machine I've found.
The Necchi Supernova BU.  If you've been following since the beginning you might recall I sold a Supernova Automatica (pictured at right) and you may have wondered why.  Honestly I've been asking myself the same question lately.  Then I remember it had a few issues, a vibration at a certain speed, cord that was designed to be in a cabinet, and a habit of slowly changing stitch length while you sewed.  The Supernova BU had none of these issues even though they were essentially almost the same machine.

During my (ashamed to admit) daily craigslist scouring I noticed a listing for a BU about 30 minutes from me for $100 that included the cabinet.
I emailed the seller and she said it was missing it's famously complete two layer accessory box. (pictured at right)  I also noticed by the photos that it had an after market foot controller.  In a way this machine had three things going against it.  The cabinet that would prevent shipping and require a vehicle big enough to pick it up.  The missing accessory box can cost up to $75 to replace, and the foot controller not being original.  Since I can't fit my legs under the cabinet I'll be getting rid of it and using the machine on my work table.  I already own a complete accessory box, and I happen to not like the original Necchi controller (pictured at right).  Who decided it would be a good idea to make you push this little black button to control the machine?  It's also very uncomfortable to use without shoes on.  The point is that I talked her down to $50 and we made the deal.

Every old machine has it quirks and this one is no exception.  The light stays on all the time when it's plugged in and it's an even uglier green/yellow/cream color than my other BU.  Hard to see in the photos so you'll have to trust me.  The needle clamp was on backwards and the thread uptake had been bent at some point causing the paint to get chipped.  The wiring was also best described as scary with duct tape in places it shouldn't have been.

This is a slightly newer BU than my other one (new in front) and it has a great upgrade that I can already see the advantage of.  The bobbin cover plate has a matte finish to reduce glare.  I've been blinded many times by the reflection on the chrome bobbin plate, what's interesting is that on my even newer Automatica it still had the chrome cover.  I wonder if this was an upgrade you purchased separately?  You can see it's the machine on the right.  Besides that it's basically identical to the other BU.

 -Edit-  I just realized since I wrote this that I forgot mention the little old lady I bought this machine form had had it for  over 20 years and never sewn a single stitch on it.  I think we could consider this a barn find!

This new addition came with a few accessories that were mostly designed for some other short shank machine and some class 66 bobbins that had seen better days.  It did come with some of my favorite Necchi class 15 bobbins and that did make me happy.  These little beauties are made of aluminum and precision machined to be perfectly round and true.  They fit inside the bobbin cases so nicely and the thread feeds like a dream.  Granted they're a little harder to get wound since there's no hole to hold the thread tail but you can't have everything right?

You're still asking why.  Why why why......   Well I'll tell you but only enough to hold you off till tomorrow.  I'm about to be sewing up some jeans and I like to use two different colors of top stitching thread.  The Supernova is the only machine I've found that will handle the super heavy thread I use in the bobbin.  Having two machines threaded with different colors of thread is a luxury I can afford, especially if it's only $50!

a weakness for lighting....

When I picked up this lamp at the thrift shop the first thing I noticed was that it didn't have a switch.  Even knowing that I bought it anyway because I can't get enough goose neck lamps like this in my sewing space.  When I plugged it in I was pleasantly surprised to find it had a touch activated dimmer, in essence the entire lamp is a switch.  Nice, I remember when that was a more popular feature.  It's not perfectly suited for sewing since I tend to touch it while moving fabric through the machine, oh well.  I'll use it anyway!

As you can see I use supplemental lighting at all my machines.  I've found that the CFL spot bulbs are the best because you can knock them over and they don't burn out.  They also don't get as hot so you're less likely to burn the back of your hand as you sew.  Yes I know...  there are special little LED lights made for this purpose.  I think those are great, just a lot more expensive when you consider I want four or five.

Feeling impulsive I also picked up a new plate.  The size plus my favorite colors made it irresistible.  I'm also partial to this speckled look for some reason.
On the free side of life:
Trash service here where I live in Massachusetts is an intriguing business.  Other areas I've lived have the standard trash plus recycle cans, you put those out and that's what they pick up. 
You're only allowed to put "bulk" trash items out a few times a year.  Well it seems here they'll pick up whatever they find on the curb come trash day.  Furniture, sofas, mattresses, tube tvs, it's all good to go.  In Alabama I tried to throw away a few 2x4s that stuck out the top of the can and they refused to take the trash for the week.  Go figure.  

To my delight what this trash system creates is a weekly scavenge hunt!  Or if you prefer a citywide collection of little ongoing yard sales where everything is free.
I was on my way home from work on Friday and scanning the curbs saw this great and ugly little table.  I pulled right over and snatched it up.  There was also a dish rack and some other household items that I left for the next taker.  I've been looking for a lamp table to replace the tv tray style table I had this freecycle lamp on and this fit my needs perfectly.  The paint is horrific, there's a cigarette burn in the top but it's strong enough to dance on and the ugly button tin seems to belong underneath it since they both have flower motifs.
Besides the happiness scavenging brings me, something that is disturbing is the sheer volume of junk this place produces.  I have a feeling if they were a little more restrictive about picking up these larger items people would be more inclined to find other homes for their large "trash".  However I'm not the only one who plays the game which gives me a little hope.  On Sunday evenings (trash day is Monday for my area) guys drive up and down the streets on more organized scavenging expeditions.  Today while riding my bike back from the grocery store I saw a love seat being transported upside down ON TOP of a Prius.  A strange sight to be sure.  I also saw an old lady loading up a dining set into her sedan.

Bringing this posting full circle I have a strange discovery.  I was looking for a light bulb to put in my new lamp..... and in borrowing one from the overhead fixtures in this house I'm renting I came across these oddities.  I'd say it was a fluke but it turns out I have a LOT of these.  I'm sure someone will have a very logical explanation for this but I have never seen bulbs with such oddball wattages.  Have you?  

baja or bust....


Last weekend I sewed up "my" Islander Sewing Systems Baja Shirt.  I say it's mine because i'm on the cover but that was just by chance.  It was designed by Janet Pray and I was simply  in the right place at the right time when they needed a male model.

The first time I sew a pattern I try to follow the directions and sizing exactly without modifications so I can fully evaluate how the designer intended it to look.  With that being said there were only two things I will change next time I sew this pattern.  One was the sizing, and the second was the seam where the hood connects to the neck.

If I had paid more attention to the sizing on the pattern instructions I would have noticed that the pattern clearly states the finished sizes and I would have picked more appropriately.  As it was I made the recommended size Large going off my chest measurement and ended up cutting 4" off each side before closing the side seams.  Next time I'll be making the small size.  I know it's supposed to be loose and all but this was a little too generous for a unisex pattern.  Something else I noticed is that there's only a 2" difference in bodice length between the XS and the 4XL.  I'll keep the large hood and pocket. The overall length I'll keep and just reduce the bodice and sleeve width.

The other issue I had was the seam where the hood connects to the neck opening.  I remember noticing this on the samples we modeled at the sewing show.  It's not graceful at all.  This was the only place on the garment I used the serger and that was my attempt to "pretty" it up somewhat.  In looking at some RTW hooded garments I notice they either serge this seam like I did or use a binding to cover over the roughness of the seam allowance.  Since most people will hardly ever wear the hood up I suggest a quick fix by putting the seam allowance on the opposite side so it's hidden 90% of the time. Let's face it, if you're wearing the hood up you're likely not worried about fashion or seams showing anyway..  I look like a hoodlum with the hood up....  maybe down as well!

The instructions included with this pattern are excellent.  The whole Islander philosophy is all about bringing industry techniques to the home sewist.  These instructions were clear, verbose, and had lots of great illustrations.  When you're accustomed to the regular style of cryptic pattern instructions Islander instructions are a joy to work with.

The fabric I chose for this first attempt is some sort of rayon/poly/spandex stuff I picked up for $1/yard at Walmart years ago.  It's buttery soft, so absolutely luxuriously comfortable, and pills within hours of wearing it.  I bought 6+ yards of this stuff so it's not the first time I've used it on a project.  I knew it would pill so I expected this and obviously why it was so inexpensive in the first place.  Anywhere the fabric rubs against itself or other stuff shows wear immediately.  You can see here on the cuff.  This is just beginning, it will get much worse.  Eventually it will get a strange threadbare effect. 

You'll also notice I made the sleeves long.  Being someone with long arms I don't get to enjoy extra long sleeves very often.  Since I reduced the circumference of the sleeve this extra length works great since I can also wear the cuff at my wrist and it won't slide down.  If it was a baggier sleeve this extra length would annoy me.

All in all it's a great basic pattern to sew up.  I think next time I'll try doing it in a t-shirt weight jersey.  This could also be made with short sleeves.  The simplicity of construction makes me think I'll be sewing a lot of it on the serger next time.  

This is my first "baja" style shirt.  I admit to being reminded of someone standing on the freeway on ramp with their thumb out.  With that said I absolutely love wearing it.  It's comfortable and casual yet has just enough detail to look cute at the grocery store.  I remember not wanting to take off the samples when we were done with the cover photo shoot.

If you're looking for a easy project to make for yourself or someone else that will actually get worn pick up a Baja pattern.  Just watch the sizing and you can't go wrong.

Disclaimer: This is not a "sponsored" blog entry.  As compensation for modeling this shirt at the show I received three Islander sewing patterns as gifts.  That's it, nothing else was implied or promised.  In these days of blogging for cash I think it's important for you to know this.

Picasa Slide Show

I love the frame that YouTube randomly chose for the video this week...  so funny, I think I'll keep it!
YouTube Video

how can i adjust my pedal so it doesn't sew so fast? I have a 30 year old Singer. Thanks for any advice

This is a common problem with older mechanical foot controllers. With lots of use they get out of adjustment. When you sew they end up sending full power or none at all which is extremely difficult to control.
Here's some options:

1. Unplug the machine, open that controller up and adjust it. There is a screw that adjusts the point in the pedal's travel where the power starts to engage the motor. You will have to experiment a little to find the correct adjustment. I usually adjust it to where the machine starts to sew without my pressing the pedal and then I back off until it requires a slight depression of the pedal before sewing. Listen to the motor, if it's humming and you're not pressing the pedal you need to back it off a little more.

2. Start to look for an electronic foot controller on the used market. These show up all the time. You want one with a thick cord just like the cord on your current controller. The controller for a computerized machine will have a skinny cord and won't work. When you find one cut your old controller off and splice the new one one. You'll then have converted your older singer into an electronic sewing machine! This is the best solution for a vintage machine in my opinion.

If you haven't seen it already here's a link where I talk about this issue:


What is the difference between sew-in interfacing and interlining? Does one treat them the same way in the garment construction?

Interlining is basically insulation in either clothing or draperies. While interfacing is used to provide body or stiffness to a fabric, interlining is usually added for bulk or heat retention. Batting is a good example of interlining. You would not treat them the same during construction.

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