Well well, it has been A WHILE since I last posted here. I haven’t stopped crafting, but what with the pandemic and all the insanity it has brought, along with everything else, it feels like I blinked in January and ended up in June.
What has kept me so busy? Trying to help the kids do their online learning (and keep them from punching each other), sewing 300 masks, piecework sewing, trying to bake my way sane, knitting a few things when I had time, and then of course the warm weather brought with it the need for garden cleanup, pool opening, and OK, occasionally sitting by the pool with a drink in hand. So, yes, I admit I have been neglecting my blog. And my house. And my appearance, YIKES.
However, with some of that behind us, and masks becoming less of an immediate concern, I have had a little time to evaluate my sewing fleet. I won’t bore you with long-winded ramblings about why I decided I need a vintage electric machine to use in addition to my main machine, but it came down to wanting something that can take some of the load away from my #1, since I’m doing a lot more piecework sewing and would hate to burn it out. And also, I’m bored, ha.
I toyed with the thought of getting an industrial, but I can’t go industrial for much of the work I’m doing anyway – it requires a triple-stitch, and I haven’t seen an industrial that does that. Even if I found one, I don’t have room in my house (or my budget.) But, as a vintage machine fan, I do know that certain vintage machines had some really powerful motors on them, are built like tanks, and will likely run forever with a little TLC.
I do have my White 8930 that I converted to treadle operation, and I love it, but I am not convinced I’d be able to get up to the same speed with the treadle. Plus, I’m not coordinated enough to do some of the fussing around with the fabric and also treadle without falling over, and it’s in a different part of the house where I’d be annoying other people. So I decided to find another vintage treasure to use when I’m feeling the need to rest my Janome. There are lots of vintage zig-zag machines out there, White and otherwise, and for whatever reason they are often to be found cheap, which is right up my alley. I almost went with a Pfaff 260, I can’t remember why I didn’t, actually…but then this old girl popped up for cheap and I thought it should be mine.
I knew instantly it was a White when I saw it, but that was confirmed when I saw the badge with the model and serial numbers. How did I know it was a White? Well to be honest…it just looked like one? The thread path, the body, the motor, the whole thing just looked so much like a White that there was no mistaking it. I realize that’s not very scientific or helpful, but it turns out I was correct, it was made by White (or made by the same factory that makes machines for White, however you want to think of it) and badged Viking. There are SO MANY different names to be found on these Japanese-made zig zag machines that it could really boggle the mind. Also, lots of them look alike, so we should probably say “lucky guess” but I’m taking my small victory!
I didn’t initially make the connection to Husqvarna Viking, but apparently the two had nothing to do with each other at this point in history anyway (I’m guessing mid ’70s?) and Viking was a brand name used exclusively by Eaton’s stores in Canada – much like Kenmore with Sears. I don’t know if all of their Viking sewing machines were made by White, but all the ones I’ve seen for sale were definitely Whites. Does that matter? Not at all, except I’m familiar with them, I have some attachments already, and I like the 1.3 amp motors.
A couple of neat features: This machine has adjustable needle positioning (the L,C,R switch there) whereas my 8930 is strictly left-homing, and can’t be moved. It has some built-in fancy pattern stitches (no external cams to get lost, bonus) and a built-in buttonhole feature. The patterning assembly and buttonhole knob were both frozen when I got them, but after some TLC both are moving freely, and the patterns are working well. The buttonhole knob still doesn’t work properly – it doesn’t engage the reverse feature when you turn it to step 3, as it should – but I don’t plan on making many buttonholes, so I’m not too worried about it. I could simply turn the fabric around. Maybe I will get a pro to repair it one day.
Now, as for the innards, I know a lot of vintage machine enthusiasts like to talk about ‘all metal’ construction. This machine has an all metal body, and weighs about 400 lbs, but I believe it has at least one plastic gear that I could see, and the built-in cam stack for the fancy pattern stitches is, of course, plastic as well. If this bothers you, you would want an older style. (I haven’t looked far enough down inside my 8930 to see if it has any plastic in there. Now I’m curious.) Does this mean it’s inherently less durable? I don’t think so. It’s survived this long, after all. Broken gears can be replaced, and metal gears can break as well, so I’m inclined to say that this isn’t necessarily a reason to write off a vintage machine. But, the more bells and whistles you get into the more parts there are to break, so bear that in mind. Anyway, I’m rambling.
Other fun quirks: the power cord on this machine had been spliced at some point, and was the old style non-polarized plug. I decided to replace the whole shebang – cord, light/motor block, and cord to the foot pedal, since this is all sold in once piece – but keep the original foot pedal since it seems to work fine. I also saved a few bucks by not replacing the pedal. It only took a few minutes to change the foot pedal over, once I vacuumed out the old spider nests. Also the belt inside the machine is sort of cracking, so I’ve ordered a replacement and will make that change as soon as it comes in the mail.
In short, was this machine worth what I paid? Yes, absolutely. Could I have not put another dime into it and left it as it was? Also yes, but I wanted to make it as nice as possible, and I’m not keen to start a fire.
I haven’t done a test on denim or other thick fabric, but it sewed through 24 layers of quilting cotton with no hesitation, so I’m confident it has enough power for me. Now I need to find a set of the vintage hemmer feet to use with it.