4 Nov 2008, 9:53pm
Sewing Sewing Machines


Just What I Needed

Just what I needed, another sewing machine. This one is a White Fair Lady from the 1960’s, model number 763. It is a straight stitch machine and quite different from the Singer, also seems to be in better condition. All it needed was cleaning, oiling, bobbins, a light bulb, and the bobbin tension adjusted a bit.

White Fair Lady Sewing Machine

White Fair Lady Sewing Machine

I picked it up an a Goodwill Store out of town they other day for $25. It seems to sew nicely and it is a bit more powerful than the Singer, so it may be better for things like this case,

Tape Recorder Carry Case

Tape Recorder Carry Case

I sewed up the other day on the Singer.

15 Oct 2008, 2:07pm
Scissors Sewing



I once worked at a place where I used scissors rather a lot. When I went to work there, they gave me some gloves. Nice people wanting to protect my hands. Not so, what happened is I used those scissors until I developed blisters. Then I used them some more until the blisters broke. And some more until my hands were bleeding. That was what the gloves were for, to keep my blood off the product. So I kind of consider myself something of an expert about scissors. At least enough of one to know that those were not simply scissors, but heavy duty industrial bent trimmers, heavy duty fabric shears in other words. Industrial shears like that would be called tailors shears in a less intense job, and would have had a highly polished chrome rather than nickel and paint finish. Next down the line are industrial bent trimmers. Those are less fancy versions of your dressmaker shears. Then there are the straight trimmers, they are a heavy duty version of what are called sewing scissors.

OK, we have mentioned scissors and shears. There are also snips. What the heck is the difference? Well, it is not exactly what I read on the web. Shears have two characteristics that scissors do not: One, they are asymmetrical, one blade and handle is different than the other. Usually the bottom blade is heavier and may be sharpened at a different angle that the top blade. The top blade usually has a finger ring while the bottom usually has a thumb ring, however that is not always true never mind what the web gurus claim. Two, they are heavier duty than scissors. While scissors typically have two same size finger rings, and symmetrical blades (Unless they are designed for some special purpose, then the blades can be very different). Snips tend to have short, high leverage blades.

Basically scissors (Using the term generically here, confusing, huh?) have one of three different bevels to their edges. The sharpest is the so-called knife edge. The knife edged blades are beveled at approximately a 45 degree angle. Scissor edged (Boy, we are sure getting a lot of use out of that word, aren’t we?) are something like 60 degrees. And finally the last which I never heard a definitive name for is near 90 degrees. You see that one children’s safety scissors, pinking shears, and on some real heavy duty stuff. To understand what that means you have to know how scissors cut.

If you look at a pair of good scissors you will see that they are somewhat bowlegged. Hold them up to the light with the blades closed and look at them edge on. You will see that they make contact at the tip and maybe the hinge, but that there is open space between them just like between the bowlegged guy’s knees. When you open them up you will se that the blades are making contact at the base near the hinges. Then as you slowly close them the contact point moves up the blades towards the tip. Scissors cut by shearing action right there at the contact point, the reason they cut so easily is because all the pressure of the sharp edges is on that tiny point, like just a couple of thread in your fabric, which moves up the blade and thus down the material. Now look closely at the beveled edge of the blade. You will notices that it is ground crosswise leaving tiny crosswise ridges that make the contact point with the material have a micro saw tooth edge. That edge grabs the material and prevents its slipping so the shearing action can work on it. If the edge is too smooth the scissors push the material along ahead of it instead of cutting. The slippier the material the rougher the edge needs to be. Think about that the next time some self appointed expert tells you to sharpen your scissors by running a stone along the length of the blades. There is a way of using scissors with very smooth very sharp edges; that is call slip cutting where you keep the scissor blades in one position and push them along the material. In that case they are not shearing the material they are cutting it like a knife, only from both sides at once.

Scissors dull in two ways. First, the edge folds over, leaving a narrow wire edges just like on a knife. Then that wire edge breaks off leaving the edge rounded. Once the edge is rounded the scissors need to be resharpened. You can delay that by occasionally stropping the edge to remove the wire edge before it breaks off. My favorite strop for scissors, and knifes, is the card board on the back of legal pads. It has just the right texture and hardness to remove a wire edge without damaging the bevel. You do not want to press hard; you are polishing, not honing the blades. Honing, resharpening, can be done by hand, but if you do not know quite a bit about putting new edges on tools you are probably better off having it done by a pro (Yes, I know, not everyone who claims to be one is one; but often you can send the scissors into the distributor for resharpening. I know that Gingher offers that service for $7.50 including return postage as of the time I am writing this).

That brings up brands. In the USA as of now there are three major vendors of forged scissors (If you are not buying forged ones, just toss them and buy new when they get dull it costs about the same): Wiss, they are an old American brand, but sold out to Cooper Tools who has them made, I guess, by the lowest bidder. They are still a decent scissor, but they are not pushing the retail market seemingly preferring to go for the industrial trade. Gingher was a German company. They were bought by Fiskars, and are made in various places around the world just as are Wiss. The ladies love them, probably because they are sold at JoAnn Fabrics. The third is Mundial. Mundial scissors are made in Brazil, but they have been made there for a long time. I understand that they started out as a German company but moved the whole kit and kaboodle to Brazil about 50 years ago. They seem to make the widest range of patterns of the big three. All three make hot drop forged high carbon scissors, that kind holds its edge better than stainless steal does so stay sharp longer. There are some Chinese, and Pakistani made forged stainless steel scissors at pretty nice prices out there, but I am not sure of the quality.

The next tier down are the flat, stamped stainless steel scissors, the top brands seem to be the Japanese Kai, and the American Wolff, Fiskars also makes this type of scissor. They seem to be a good value, but as I said, I would not bother having them resharpened.

There are also some small makers out there that make extremely fine scissors, at extremely dear prices. I do not know much about them, I go into convulsions at the thought of spending $350 for a pair of scissors.

The only other maintenance scissor need is an occasional drop of oil on the pivots, and a wipe with a very lightly oiled cloth. Your sewing machine oil is fine for this. The way I do it is to wipe the excess oil from oiling the pivot off with a soft cloth and then use the cloth to wipe the blades. Usually just the right amount of oil. If it looks oily, wipe again with an oil free area of the cloth. The purpose is to prevent rust, and insure smooth cutting.

Your Comments and Corrections are always welcome.

3 Oct 2008, 6:50pm

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Beginner’s Woes

I have sewn two simple learning projects: 1. a dust cover for the sewing machine 2. A dust cover for my inkjet photo printer that does not get used a lot as I have a laser for routine printing. Both were made out of an old blue bed sheet.

Sewin machine dust cover

Sewin machine dust cover

The sewing machine cover was really to test the machine (And I found out that it had a tension problem that I have only done a jury rig fix of until I can get a new tension assembly; which I have ordered). I designed it as a wrap over with sewn-on in ends. It went together fairly easily. I did have problems sewing along the edge of the bottom hem. The needle wanders too much for the adjustable hemming foot which has stitches only about 1/32 of an inch from the fold over, and the zig-zag foot is not accurate enough to maintain a even edge either but I was able to sew farther from the edge (1/8 inch) and do an acceptable job, for a first try.

The inkjet cover I designed as one cruciform piece with just four seams. Made a pattern from craft paper, and when I went to make it today, I found I did not have a big enough piece of sheet left to do it (it started life as a fitted sheet and had a few holes I had to work around). So I changed it to the same style as the sewing machine cover. Only I wanted to try using fusible tape instead of pins.

The fusible tape makes stitching real easy, but is a bit of a pain. You have to have the temperature of the iron just right, very hot, but not too hot. It oozes out and gets on the ironing board cover and the iron (I found that using a sheet of paper under it helped with that problem); it also is not obvious how to make the corner seams between the sides and top of the end pieces and the wrap over piece. I now have a zipper foot so it was not difficult to control the edge stitching on the hem.

What I found out, besides making sure you have a big enough piece of fabric (grin), is that you do not need an inch of ease on a dust cover, one-half inch, or maybe even none, would have been enough. The sides do not need to be as tall as the top of the object to be covered because of droop. So both covers are bigger than they needed to be, but I guess that is better than too small. That you should check your seams for tension every so often, I had a couple that were loose on the top tension for some reason while all the rest were fine (I have since figured out that the cause of that was not enough pressure on the foot). That one needs to work carefully and not get impatient; I have a problem with that especially when things don’t go the way I planned. That running upstairs to use the iron, and back down to use the sewing machine is a pain. That I really need a tee-square and a couple of curves for laying out patterns.

I think my next project will be something with curved seams; and my next article will be about scissors as I find that there is a lot of no-sense about them on the web.

Your Comments and Corrections are always welcome.