DIY Cure for a Slipping Treadle Belt

The leather treadle belt on my Singer 328K was slipping when I sewed over anything thick or used twin needles. I tightened up the belt, but even with the belt tight, it was still slipping. I think there were a few things causing it to slip. The main reason is probably because the treadle belt is scraped up from when I was using the belt with the original balance wheel and there wasn’t quite enough clearance for the belt. Another factor is that I have it on a treadle base with a large wheel to make it treadle a little faster. Also, it is a zig-zag sewing machine, which requires more force to turn than a straight stitch machine.

Someday I’ll replace the leather belt with urethane belting, which I think will work better than leather for this machine, but for now I just wanted to put something on the belt to make it stickier. I figured violin rosin would work. I planned to buy some, but then I thought, hey, rosin is made out of pitch, right? I live in a house surrounded by pine and fir trees, so maybe I could make some rosin? Rosin doesn’t cost much, but I thought it would be a fun project to try to make my own.

A Google search gave me an idea of how to make rosin. Basically, you boil pitch, then add beeswax and other secret ingredients. I didn’t find any actual recipes (I guess that’s top secret info), so I just winged it.

There is snow on the ground at my house and it’s been raining, so I didn’t really want to go tramping around in the slush looking for pitch. I remembered that I had some pitchy firewood, so I decided to try scraping the pitch off of it, since I only needed a little bit of rosin.

Pitchy Wood

I put the pitch in a metal measuring cup and set it on the wood stove to melt and boil a bit. I added a couple of small chips of beeswax and stirred them in.

Pitch in cup

I made a mold out of pieces of a manila folder, poured in the hot pitch, and let it cool.

Rosin mold

I regretted using my good measuring cup when it came time to clean it up. I had to heat up some rubbing alcohol in it to dissolve the pitch then rub the cup with coconut oil, but I got all of the pitch residue out of my measuring cup.

The rosin came right out of the mold. And what do you know, it kinda looks like a tiny piece of rosin!

Mini rosin

I rubbed the rosin on the leather belt as I treadled until the belt felt just a bit sticky.

Rosin on treadle belt

The belt is slipping a lot less now. I had fun making the rosin, and it didn’t cost me anything to make it, so I got double enjoyment out of the project.

Posted in Treadle Sewing Machines

An Accidental Science Experiment


I’ve been sewing up Cashmerette Appleton knit dresses for myself and a couple of other people, and I used a fair amount of Solvy and Sticky Solvy wash away stabilizer while sewing the hems. After washing the last dress in my front-loading washer, I reached into the pocket formed by the rubber door seal to clean out the lint and whatnot that collects in there, and got a bit of a gooey surprise.

I freaked out for a few seconds, then got up the courage to pull the thing out. It was a perfectly clear glob of firm slimy stuff. It took me a minute, but I figured out what it was, since it looked just like the slime I made in chemistry class when I was in school. The PVA stabilizer reacted with my laundry detergent (Charlie’s Soap powdered detergent) to make slime! Amazingly, it came out perfectly clear even though the dresses are black. I dissolved some more stabilizer in a bowl of water and added a little laundry detergent just to check that that’s what had happened, and yes, it solidified into a gooey ball.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the intermittent error messages I’ve been getting on my washing machine?

Posted in Uncategorized

Favorite Sewing Tip of 2015

UltraCleanMarkersFor all of the years that I’ve been sewing, I’ve struggled to find a good fabric marking tool. I’ve tried pencils that break as soon as they are sharpened and sometimes don’t wash out. I’ve tried air-soluble markers that fade too soon and can’t be ironed or the marks become permanent (how can you avoid ironing your marks?). Traditional chalk isn’t too bad, but you have to sharpen it frequently to get a fine line, and it’s difficult or impossible to use on some fabrics, like stretchy knits and fleece.

Well, thanks to Lauren’s blog post last May, I found the perfect marking tool for most fabrics: Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers.  The Ultra-Clean markers wash out even better than regular washable markers, and are better than any marker I’ve found in the notions aisle of a fabric store. I used them to mark all over white t-shirts I sewed, and the marks washed out without a trace.

Now that I have a marking tool that I’m confident will wash out, I find myself marking all sorts of places that I wouldn’t have before. My favorite use for these markers is marking hems. I mark the crease line on the right side of the fabric using a marker along the edge of a quilting ruler. It makes pressing the hem much easier to have it marked first rather than trying to measure as I press.

Lauren did some testing on these markers, but I accidentally discovered that they don’t wash out of silk as well as cotton, so I did some further testing with fabric I had on hand.

I didn’t have white fabric in every fiber I wanted to test, so I just picked the lightest colors I had. I tested cotton, nylon, polyester, rayon (viscose), silk, linen, and wool. The eight geometric shapes on the upper portion of the swatches were drawn with each color of Crayola Ultra-Clean washable markers. The three ovals below them were done with regular Crayola washable markers for comparison.


I basted the ends of my swatches together into a tube to keep the fabric from twisting up in the washer (that was last year’s tip). I let it dry for a couple of hours, then I threw it in the washer with some towels and washed it in cold water.


For all fabrics except silk and wool, all of the marks from both the Ultra-clean and regular washable markers disappeared without a trace. On the off-white silk swatch, I could just barely detect marks from the Ultra-Clean markers, but the blue and red regular washable markers left noticeable pink stains (they look worse in person than in the picture). On the tan colored wool, I could just barely see a pink stain from the red regular washable marker.

Even after this test, I wouldn’t hesitate to use Crayola Ultra-Clean markers on light colored silk and wool. I wouldn’t use the regular washable markers on silk or wool, though. Surprisingly, black seems to wash out better than red or blue, so on silk or wool I’d stick to the black marker and mark sparingly. Also, on the back of the package the markers came in, it says that it may take several washes to completely remove stains, so I bet that a couple more washes would get everything out.

These markers are great, but they won’t work for everything. Obviously, you can only use washable markers on fabric that will be washed. Since I never sew anything that will be dry cleaned, that’s not an issue for me. Markers will of course not show up on really dark colored fabrics. For dark colors, I use white tailor’s chalk or a chalk wheel for marking fabric and a white china marker for tracing around patterns.


Posted in Sewing

2015 Unblogged Sewing Projects

I sewed quite a few things last year that didn’t make it onto my blog. Some items I just never got around to writing about and some just weren’t worth their own post. So here they all are in one quick and dirty post. Well, not literally dirty (although there are plenty of wrinkles). I had to do a lot of laundry to get everything clean for the pictures, since most of these are items that my family’s been wearing frequently.

Last summer I sewed up cotton thermal long underwear for the whole family so we could all stay nice and warm this winter. I bought a 15 yard lot of pink cotton thermal knit fabric, and sewed it all up at once. I was really sick of pink by the time I was done! I dyed my husband’s long johns a more masculine color, but my son opted to leave his pink.

For myself, I based the pattern on my self-drafted pajama pattern, for my daughter I made a pattern based on a RTW long sleeve tee and leggings, and for my son and husband I used Jalie 2328.

A winter storm knocked out our power for a couple of days when I was behind on laundry, and my son needed some new underwear anyway, so I sewed him a couple of pairs of knit boxer briefs on my treadle zig-zag sewing machine while wearing a headlamp. That was pretty fun. After the power came back on, I sewed up a few more pairs using my serger. For the pattern, I copied his RTW underwear and graded it up to fit.

I turned four yards of purple cotton knit into long sleeve and 3/4 sleeve Grainline Lark Tees for me, a long sleeve tee for my daughter, an SBCC Tonic Tee for me, and a pair of underwear for me.

I upcycled a couple of my old maternity tees into a shirt for my daughter and a pair of underwear for me. The neckline binding on the shirt was made with my new industrial-style binding attachment that fits on a regular sewing machine. I’ll do a post about the binder once I’ve practiced with it a bit more.

I made myself a crushed velour Lark tee for the holidays. When my daughter saw the fabric, she wanted one too.


Here are a couple more Lark tees. They are made from thin wool/rayon blend jersey. They make a nice inner layer in the winter.

I made a Watson-ish bra. The bra below was my third try. For the first version, I used the long-line Watson pattern without alterations, choosing a size based on my measurements. It was too small and tight. I have this problem all of the time – since I have wide breasts, my measurements don’t give a good indication of my cup size – so I don’t fault the pattern. But I had to start somewhere, so I started with the size I measured for. On the first test bra, the cups were way too small, the band was too tight, and the band was too long. The lower edge of the band cut into me below the ribs, I imagine since I’m petite and have a short ribcage. For the second version, I used a cup pattern several sizes larger and a larger band size, but it still cut in below the ribs. I guess I just can’t wear a long-line bra. By the third version, I had completely re-designed the band to match the band shape from a self-drafted pattern I was working on. The bra is reasonably comfortable and I wear it occasionally, but the only support comes from the straps, so I don’t know if I’ll make any more. This bra design would have been a good one for me a couple of decades ago before I actually needed support.

I made a quilt for my husband for Christmas. I used Quilter’s Dream wool batting, which seems to be pretty good stuff. It survived the first washing without any problems, anyway.


And finally, I made a wearable muslin of the Cashmerette Appleton dress. I graded down to a size 10 for most of the dress, but I went up to a size 14 at the back hip. After comparing the pattern pieces to my personal block pattern, I decided to shorten the pattern 1/2″ at the bust level. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was a good idea.  I think I also need to cut a larger size for the front hip and below, since it doesn’t overlap enough. Next time I’m going to try interfacing the vertical hems on the wrap skirt edges to see if that helps prevent the sagging and lack of wrapping problems, too. This is a flattering and comfortable dress, though, so I’m going to put in the work to get the fit and length right, and then I’ll get some good fabric to make more Appletons.


Here are some overexposed pictures of the Appleton, so you can see the details:

Posted in Sewing

Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the holiday giveaway is . . .


Gill! Congratulations, I’ll email you the set of mini dress form patterns.

Posted in Uncategorized

Holiday Giveaway

For the holidays I’m giving away a set of all of my DIY miniature dress form patterns. These include:

My favorite, the sewn and stuffed dress form. This one comes in three sizes (1/4 scale, 1/3 scale, and 1/2 scale):


The stuffed dress form instructions include a pattern to make the cardboard stand shown in the picture above, on the left.

Next is the paper half-scale dress form:


The paper forms can be covered with paper mache, and optionally covered with a sewn non-stretch cover,


or a knit cover (the knit cover is free on Craftsy):


The paper dress form instructions also include a pattern to make the cardboard stand shown in the picture above.

The non-stretch cover can also be sewn and stuffed to make a dress form. It’s a little simpler to put together than the sewn dress form that comes in three sizes.

fabric dress form side

Also included is a set of basic block patterns that can be used for flat pattern making practice. These fit the paper dress form best, but can be used with the sewn forms if you alter the patterns a little (or use them as-is if you are not too picky about the fit).

half scale sloper patterns

I have a some free dress patterns available on Craftsy that will fit any of the half-scale forms:

For further details on the patterns, check out the pattern descriptions on Craftsy or Etsy.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment telling me what you would use your dress form for. Would you use it as a decoration? To practice flat pattern making or draping? Or something else?

I’ll use a random number generator to pick a winner on January 1, 2016.

The patterns are pdfs and will be emailed to you, so the giveaway is open to everyone worldwide.

Good luck, and happy holidays!





Posted in Uncategorized

Treadling a Singer 201-2 Part 2

Last month I adapted a gear driven Singer 201-2 so I could use it on a treadle base, but I just now finished the project by installing the belt guard. This was my first time drilling holes in cast iron and tapping holes for screws. It actually wasn’t that difficult, and it felt very empowering.

I bought a bobbin winder from a Singer 201-3 to to use on my converted 201-2. The Singer 201-3 belt guard and bobbin winder assembly attaches to the sewing machine with two screws, which the 201-2 does not have holes for. The holes need to be drilled and tapped for the screws that will be used.

I needed to use a common screw size so I could easily get a tap and drill set to match, so I chose 8-32 screws, which are slightly smaller than the screws used to attach the bobbin winder on the Singer 201-3.

I realized that the heads on most machine screws would be too large to fit into the depression on the belt guard, and somehow I discovered that fillister head screws were what I needed. Most places will only sell you these machine screws in sets of 100, but fortunately I found 2-packs of stainless steel half-inch 8-32 fillister head screws online from Home Depot.


I bought the cheapest tap and drill set I could find, since I only needed it for two holes and I don’t know if I’ll ever use it again. I was very careful with the drill bit and tap, and they worked fine. I discovered my husband already had a tap wrench, so I didn’t have to buy one.

I made a paper template to mark the hole locations, then used a center punch to mark the centers.

I was surprised to learn that cast iron is best drilled at low speed with no lubricant. It’s a good thing I looked that up. The cast iron flakes off as powder, so lubricant just gums things up. I used a vintage hand drill, since I have an easier time drilling straight with a hand drill, and it’s definitely low speed! It took a while to drill the holes, but it wasn’t difficult. I periodically pulled out the drill bit and cleaned off the iron filings.


When I looked up how to tap a hole in metal, I read lots of horror stories of taps breaking and having to be drilled out with diamond bits, so I was extra careful, especially since I was not using high quality tools. Basically, you just turn the tap clockwise until it starts to get hard to turn, back it off a quarter turn or more, then turn it clockwise again. I didn’t use lubricant when tapping the cast iron. I periodically removed the tap completely and brushed it off. The main thing is to never use a lot of force – if the tap starts to bind up, back it off a bit or remove it and clean it.


I put a drop of sewing machine oil on each screw, then installed the belt guard. The screws fit perfectly in my holes.


I put the balance wheel back on, then adjusted the bobbin winder so that the rubber ring presses against the hand wheel when the bobbin winder is engaged. I also had to adjust the position of the bobbin thread tensioner/thread guide on the base of the machine.


Now I can call this project done!

Posted in Treadle Sewing Machines, Vintage Sewing Machines

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