I’ve been sewing all weekend on a Slantomatic 401 I bought on a whim for $50, as a fixer upper project, when I first began my downward spiral journey into sewing machine hoarding. It was a mess. The camstack was frozen solid with old grease, and the stitch selector wouldn’t move at all. The whole machine was full of weird grime–not dust, which tends to wipe off easily enough, but a greasy caked on goo that soap and water and even WD40 didn’t do much to remove. I’ve been working at it with isopropyl alcohol and Q-tips. The outside isn’t fantastic, but I went over every nook and cranny of the inside and removed all the gunk and reoiled it with Tri-Flow oil. I freed up with camstack with a combo of WD-40, a screwdriver to scrape hardened crud bit by bit from the gears, and a hairdryer. The hairdryer is magical. The heat loosened up old frozen parts just enough for the penetrant to work its magic, and now it’s fully functional! Not beautiful, yet, but functional. (For your tinkering pleasure, see the end of this post for a Slantomatic 401 manual, service manual, and a link to an amazing tutorial on all things frozen camstack related from The Archaic and The Arcane blog.)
So I oiled it up to work on my Advance raglan pattern. For my wearable muslin version I settled on an ivory jersey, and most of it went really well. Well, I should explain. There is a cycle of emotions I go through when sewing vintage patterns. I begin in dreamy joy, enamored of the pattern illustration, dreaming of looking all Audrey Hepburn in my future garment. The main seams sail along. I get most of it together with my illusions intact. And then I get to the facings, and my dreams begin to crumble in the face of geometrical reality. They inevitably blow my mind. Most of them seem to be designed to fit together, from front panel to back to the other side, which I think is great, theoretically. But there are always problems with the snips and clips and places where the work has to turn to match edges and it’s never quite all I’d hoped. This is where the worry sets in. By the time I get to sewing up closures and hems, I’m pretty sure I’ve blown it. The topstitching is the nail in the coffin, especially with jersey fabric, where the feed just never goes as smoothly as it should and my lines end up looking like I sewed them drunk. When I try it on, I almost inevitably find that my tree trunk waistline does not fit without risking taking someone’s eye out popping off a button. And the shoulders. Typically, they don’t fit for crap. So I find myself staring at the pattern illustration feeling foolish for ever believing that I would resemble a woman whose waistline is drawn to be smaller than her head. But then, if Mad Men should have taught me anything, it’s that illustration=advertising=creation of a fantasy.
This time, I mostly just disliked my topstitching and resolved to add more width at the waistline. Shoulders, at least in jersey, fit wonderfully in the raglan cut. Also, I wasn’t sure about interfacing the jersey; now I know. If I want a crisp finish and pretty collar edges, interfacing is a must. Especially in formless bendy soft and squishy jersey. I’m considering redrafting the facing where it joins. There must be a simpler way.
But…I like learning things the hard way.
(Singer 401 Sewing Machine Manual)
(The Archaic and The Arcane’s Tutorial on Camstack and Other Issues)