Current Projects: Sewing Dickeys and Tinkering on the Necchi Esperia

So far I’ve sewn up one dickey that I really like. It needs buttons and buttonholes and some pressing, but here’s the work in progress:

photo 1It’s draped on the newly re-stuffed and covered-in-pinnable-jersey dressform my grandma and I made out of duct tape. Not perfect, but a good start. I wanted a high, cut on funnel-neck style collar so that I can press the edges down for that tuxedo look. Like this:

photo 2I love, love, love the color. I was surprised that it wasn’t pure hell to sew, either–it’s a cheap-ish stretch satin and the only ones I’ve worked with seemed to fray quite a bit, but this is holding up pretty well in the time between cutting and edge finishing.

photo 3Next time I sew this I’ll use lighter interfacing, because with a facing and the interfacing, it ends up a bit wonky around the neck when it’s worn beneath something. Behind it is the machine I’ve been using–it’s a Necchi Esperia from 1957 or so. I love the minimal design and the pastel. It was a Goodwill purchase–the motor was shooting sparks, so I got it for a song. I’ve seen that before, actually; if you’re lucky, it’s one of two simple things: carbon brushes that need replaced, or just dirt. these old machines are just a bit dusty in the motor and if you disengage the handwheel and run it at high speed for a few minutes and maybe add a bit of lubricant to the designated holes in the motor, it fixes it right up and runs much better. That was the case here, but it still isn’t quite right. I’m not sure if the timing is a bit off, but even after about 20 solid hours of sewing it still isn’t quite as smooth as it should be for a Necchi. (I haven’t learned how to work on timing yet, but I will soon thanks to the Ray White sewing machine repair class! :D)

photo 4There’s something I love about the simplicity of a straight stitch sewing machine. So much less to go haywire in the mechanics. And it seems like working with wovens about 90% of the stitching I have to do is a plain old straight stitch. This one is extremely crotchity about backstitching, though, and I haven’t ever noticed the same thing in another straight stitch only machine–if I switch to a reverse stitch from any position other than the lowest needle position, it’s pretty much guaranteed that my bottom thread is going to bind up and turn into a thread nest I have to pull out. It may be that all sewing machines do this and I’ve just been oblivious about the reason for the bind ups, but I don’t think so. Maybe a timing thing? We’ll see.

In my usual trying-to-do-five-million-things-at-once way, I’ve been at work on a black taffeta blazer, binding with chiffon seam binding as I go (my usual raggedy overcast inner seams are a pet peeve at the moment), doing the Burda University digital pattern drafting course, AND living out some of my early childhood library career fantasies by digitizing some of my old sewing books. So many things I want to do and make and try and read and, alas, so little time. #digitalageproblems

2 thoughts on “Current Projects: Sewing Dickeys and Tinkering on the Necchi Esperia”

    1. Hi, Edwin. They are great machines, and it’s very cool that it’s in the original cabinet. It’s hard to say objectively what any sewing machine really is worth, since it’s kind of a niche market and a lot depends on things like what accessories it has, how it runs, whether your potential buyer pool includes collectors or people just wanting a basic machine, and that kind of thing. Ebay is a great place to start. I’d search for sold listings of Necchi Esperias to see what people have actually paid, rather than what people who claim they’re industrial machines or whatever are asking. (They aren’t industrial, lol.) If you are trying to sell it, it would be a good idea to see how well the motor runs, whether the wiring is in good shape or if it’s brittle or cracking, whether the hand wheel turns smoothly, etc. Necchis are very finely machined and require daily oiling, so if you have the manual and sewing machine oil (not 3-in-1, which gunks up horribly over time), it would be well worth your time and effort to actually oil it properly and run it a bit so that you get an accurate idea of how smoothly it runs. Usually with machines that have sat for awhile, they improve dramatically with a little oil and five minutes lifting the presser foot and running the motor gently, and the better it runs, the more you can ask for it. And the more you can tell a potential buyer about how it actually runs, the better. I haven’t followed that particular model in awhile, but Necchis tend to be popular among collectors, and I’ve seen Esperias go for between $100 to $250 on Ebay, If it’s pink, it seems to go faster and for a little more than the avocado variety. 🙂

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