The Little Sewing Machine That Could

I mentioned in my last post that I bought a Singer 99k with a hand crank for my daughter. She is still too little to reach the pedal of a treadle sewing machine and is scared of electric machines, so I thought a hand crank might be good, since I’m trying to get my kids hooked on sewing as young as possible.

I have a reproduction hand crank that I put on my antique Singer 127 vibrating shuttle sewing machine. I had my daughter try that, but it was a bit of a stretch for her to reach the hand crank, she found the lack of reverse frustrating, and the hand crank handle fell off after a few minutes. I think the handle is just pressed into the hole – I don’t think anything actually broke. The gears grind a bit at a certain point in the rotation, too. I just don’t understand the mindset of the people who manufacture junk like this. I glued the handle back on with JB Weld. Hopefully it will stay on now.

reproduction hand crank

I figured a three quarter size sewing machine would be good. When I saw a Singer 99k on ebay that came with a vintage hand crank, I bought it, hoping the hand crank would be better than the one I have. I was so excited to find what I was looking for at a semi-reasonable price I snapped it up despite the fact it was sold by a new ebay seller and the shipping charges were a bit steep.

No matter how many times I keep telling myself not to buy sewing machines on ebay, I keep doing it. Maybe these pictures will deter you from making my mistakes.

Here’s what the box looked like before I opened it. The box was thin cardboard, and the contents was shifting around, not packed tightly.

Unpacking Singer 99 1

After opening the top, I found this. Obviously none of the money I paid for shipping was used to pay for packing material. They put a little bubble wrap around the outside of the case. The metal accessories were just tossed in with the sewing machine.

Unpacking Singer 99 2

When I took out the sewing machine, you could see the rubble the case was reduced to.

Unpacking Singer 99 3

The wooden sewing machine base was broken, but amazingly the sewing machine itself appeared to be fine! It probably had a few new scratches and scrapes, but it had quite a few scrapes to begin with.

Unpacking Singer 99 4

I sifted through the rubble and found all of the pieces to the wooden base. I inexpertly glued them back together, so it works, but it’s lost any value it might have had as a collector’s item.

Singer 99 broken base

I’m overly optimistic when it comes to vintage sewing machines. I keep thinking – it’s so fun, you just clean them up, oil them, adjust the tension, and they run like new! Some of my machines were like that, but this one actually had a couple of things wrong with it. For a while I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to fix it, but eventually I did. The spring that holds down the presser foot had broken and the upper tension release lever was bent so it was jammed against the side of the tension release pin. Oh, and the upper tension knob was rotated sideways. I finally figured out how to fix it all. The Tools for Self Reliance Sewing Machine Manual is a great resource for DIY refurbishing of Singer models 15, 66, 99, and 201. I could have saved myself some time if I had finished reading it before working on this machine.

I was able to bend the tension release lever back into place and re-align the upper tension assembly, but that left the broken spring. I looked for used ones for sale, but the only one I could find was from a machine 30 years older than this one. I didn’t really want to pay money for an even older spring and wait for it to be shipped, so I decided to try to fix the spring.

I found a machine screw that just fit inside the spring and glued it in place with JB Weld. After it hardened most of the way I cut off the end of the screw, leaving just a little sticking out of the broken end of the spring and glued the other section of the spring onto it.

fixing 99k presser bar spring 1 fixing 99k presser bar spring 2

The next day, I installed it, and it worked perfectly. Here’s where that spring goes:

Here are some before and after photos. They’re always so much more dramatic when the sewing machine is dirty to start with.


Singer 99 before 1


Singer 99 after 1


Singer 99 before 2


Singer 99 after 2

I ordered a replacement slide plate after the pictures above were taken. This little machine sews quite nicely now. And perhaps most importantly, my daughter loves it! I was worried after all this she might not even be interested in it, but she’s very excited. The sewing machine is set up in her room, and she gave it a good night kiss before bed. Today I helped her sew a dust cover for it with this machine.

Singer 99 stitching

My son is feeling a little left out, and wondered why his sister got a “new” sewing machine and he didn’t. I told him that the treadle Singer 252 that is set up in my overflow sewing area can be for his use whenever he wants. I guess it’s not quite the same as having a machine purchased and fixed up specifically for him, though.

Posted in Vintage Sewing Machines

Treadling a Singer 201-2 and Stuff

I’ve had another flare up of VSMAD (Vintage Sewing Machine Acquisition Disorder). I thought I had it under control, but apparently not. This disorder cannot be cured, but does occasionally go into remission.

I’ve acquired two new machines in the last month – a Singer 201 for myself, and a hand crank Singer 99K to teach my daughter to sew on. I am quite proud of myself, though, because I also gave away a sewing machine. This was the first time a sewing machine has left my possession. Sergers excluded, the Janome Magnolia 7306 I gave away was the only sewing machine that I owned that was manufactured in this century. It had a couple of stitches that my other machines don’t have, but it still just sat on the shelf since I’d rather sew on vintage machines, so I’m glad it went off to a good home.

My VSMAD flare up was triggered by a perfectly innocent comment in a post by Peter Lappin. In this post, he said he made buttonholes with his Singer buttonholer – the one that uses templates. I thought “Wait, what? Did Singer make buttonholers that DON’T take templates?” I’d only heard about the kind of buttonholer with templates, and I’m always complaining that I don’t have exactly the right size template even though I have every size template made for my buttonholer. I was pretty excited to learn that they made buttonholers that can be adjusted to make any size buttonhole. Peter made a video demonstrating this adjustable old-style buttonholer on his Singer 201 sewing machine. This buttonholer lets you adjust just about everything by turning various wing nuts and screws.

I bought one of these buttonholers quite inexpensively on ebay. No one seems to want them for some reason. I think they are great. If you are looking for one, search for Singer part #121795. They do take a bit of fiddling with to get everything set right, so I’ll probably use the template buttonholer if it has the size I want. I’ll be happy to have the adjustable buttonholer when I need another size, though.

Buttonholer 121795

After seeing how the Singer 201 sewing machine in Peter’s buttonholer video could drop the feed dogs, I of course had to research that model of sewing machine. I quickly realized why I had always ignored this model – in the US, almost every Singer 201 you will find is a 201-2, which is the gear driven “potted” motor version. I’d always just thought of the 201 as “that industrial looking model that I can’t put on a treadle base” and ignored it. But after reading more about this sewing machine, I found out that it came in other versions besides the potted motor – 201-1 (treadle), 201-3 (belt driven motor), and 201-4 (hand crank).

I’d been trying to replace my treadle Singer 252 with a treadle Singer 328k, since I know the plastic gear deep inside the 252 is likely to break at some point in the next few years, but I don’t enjoy sewing on the 328k. I recently got a different handwheel for it, though, so I can treadle it at twice the speed as before. I added an update to the end of my previous post about the 328k showing the modification I had to make to get the other handwheel to work.

When I read about how absolutely wonderful the Singer 201 is to sew on, I had to have one, of course, since the 328k just isn’t making me happy as my main sewing machine. And of course the 201 would have to go on a treadle base, since I’m kind of crazy about sewing on treadle sewing machines. The belt driven 201-3’s can be found on ebay, but they are typically “refurbished”, ship from Canada or the UK, and cost several hundred dollars. I started wondering if I could convert a potted motor version to be treadled and save some money.

I found this flikr page detailing the steps needed to convert a 201-2 to be treadled, belt driven, or hand cranked. Yes, it can be done! There is also a tutorial on Quilting Board that demonstrates converting a Singer 15-91 potted motor to treadle, which is a very similar process. You’ll need a spoked handwheel (aka balance wheel), and if you want a bobbin winder on the converted 201, you’ll need a belt guard from another machine (see next paragraph). To install a belt guard and bobbin winder, you’ll have to drill and tap a couple of screw holes, but other than that, the conversion just involves using a screwdriver.

I bought a belt guard and bobbin winder from a 201-3 from the UK on ebay. If you can’t find a belt guard from a 201-3, I think it would also work to get a Singer 15-90 or 15-88 belt guard and replace its bobbin winder with the bobbin winder from the 201-2 potted motor assembly. The model 15’s use class 15 bobbins, which have a larger hole than the class 66 bobbins the 201’s use, so you won’t be able to use the model 15 bobbin winder.

To convert a potted motor sewing machine to treadle or hand crank you need a Singer nine spoke handwheel. A spoked wheel from a Singer model 15, 66, 99, 127, or 128 should work. I’ve read about the poor quality of the reproduction spoked handwheels, so I wouldn’t suggest getting one of those. I guess you could use a solid handwheel for treadling if you happen to have one, but these typically have a larger diameter at the belt groove, which will make it sew slowly.

For converting to belt driven motor, you would want the solid handwheel from one of the above mentioned models with the larger diameter at the belt groove so you won’t strain the motor. Occasionally you will run across a solid handwheel that has the same small diameter at the belt groove as the spoked wheels, so watch out for that.

I haven’t gotten around to installing the bobbin winder yet, since I’ll have to buy some tools to drill and tap the holes. The sewing machine works perfectly fine without it, though, and I just wind bobbins on another machine for now. You know, since I don’t exactly have a shortage of sewing machines . . .

I wanted to use the stop motion knob that came on the 201 instead of the one that came with the spoked balance wheel I bought, since the knob from the 201 was much prettier. I tried using the 201-2 stop motion knob with the washer from a model 128, but they didn’t fit together right. I then tried the washer from the 201-2, and it seemed to work fine, but I later realized that metal was being scraped off the washer, so I switched to using the rusty old washer and knob that came with the handwheel.

Here are a few pictures of the process. I wonder if that pin I found in the electrical connector had anything to do with the melted wiring?

I removed the light, since I didn’t trust the wiring and I don’t like the front mounted lights anyway. I wrapped a gold ribbon bandage over the holes. In case you were wondering, no, I don’t stick pins in it. I sew with a bright lamp nearby, and without the light cover in the way to cast a shadow, there is enough light on the needle area. The blue tape on the stitch length adjuster has the stitch lengths marked in millimeters. I’m trying to think of a more attractive option to mark the stitch lengths, but the blue tape works for now. The sewing machine is on a temporary cobbled together table top, which sits on a treadle base I just found on Craigslist for $25. Eventually I’ll find or make a better table top.

Singer 201-2 on treadle

A couple of things I learned while cleaning up this machine:

Don’t put gear lubricant on the gears of a Singer 201! They want oil. In a very un-me-like fashion, I started cleaning and oiling without reading the manual first, and since I saw some old grease in the lower right gear cover, I proceeded to put gear lubricant on all of the gears. I noticed a significant increase in the amount of force necessary to turn the handwheel. Then I read the manual, and it says to OIL the gears, so I had to clean off all of the goop and put sewing machine oil on the gears. The sewing machine turned much more easily after I cleaned off the lubricant and oiled the gears.

Here is a very good guide for removing and replacing the 201’s bobbin case. It is much easier to understand than the directions in the manual.

The Singer 201 is often called the best quality home sewing machine Singer ever made and sewing on it is compared to driving a luxury car. After sewing on my 201, I absolutely agree. Everything is sturdy, machined perfectly, and the gear drive makes it sew very smoothly. It does great with both thick and thin fabric, and it is an absolute joy to sew with.

Usually after buying a vintage machine, I feel the need to get a parts machine to go with it. However, the 201 is so well built and sturdy I don’t think I’ll need a parts machine. I look at it, and think “What could possibly break?” Maybe the check spring on the tension assembly might need replacing in a few decades, but I already have parts machines that have the same spring. If I happen to run across a 201-1 or 201-3 at a good price, I’m not sure I’d be able to resist buying it, though.

I had a conversation with my husband that went something like

DH:  So, now that you have the best sewing machine ever made, can you stop buying sewing machines?
ME:  Of course not.

Although, maybe I should TRY to stop. I’m running out of places to stash sewing machines.

Posted in Treadle Sewing Machines, Vintage Sewing Machines

Homegrown Linen Dishcloth

When I started this blog and picked the name, I was really excited about the little patch of flax I grew in my yard. Then we moved, I lost my nice little garden patch, life happened, and I didn’t do much with the flax. It’s been sitting in my shed for the last three years, but fortunately flax straw keeps just fine.

I finally got around to retting the flax this past summer. I put it in water, weighed it down, and let it sit for a few days. I didn’t exchange any of the water, so it got pretty disgusting! I was afraid I’d retted it too long, since the fibers seemed to be breaking off at the root ends, but I later figured out they were under retted overall. I think I need to suspend them with the root ends out of the water for further retting. Fortunately you can start and stop retting any number of times, so I can rett them some more later.

I pulled out a few of the thicker-stalked bundles, since they rett faster than the thin stalks. I don’t have any flax processing tools yet, so I improvised. I stomped on the flax to break it, tried scutching with a scrap of wood over the edge of my picnic table, and heckled with a sharp pointed metal brush cleaning comb and a dog comb.

Since my flax wasn’t retted enough, I had to handle it pretty roughly to separate the fibers. I didn’t get any really long fibers, since they all broke off. I gave up after three or four bundles, but I combed through the tow to pick out the longest fibers and got a decent sized handful of tow fibers. I got a few longer fibers that were about a foot and a half long.

linen towflax ready to spin

I spun the shorter fibers by just grabbing a small handful and spinning from the end. I spread out the longer fibers on a towel with the ends peeking out, rolled it up loosely, and spun the fibers from the roll. This method is described in the book Handspinning Flax.

flax in towel for spinning

I have an older version of the all-metal Columbine spinning wheel. I bought a high speed pulley for it, which was described as “experimental”, but after fiddling with it for a while, I decided it doesn’t work. I couldn’t get it to take up the yarn at all. I switched back to the regular pulley and got my flax spun into fine yarn.

spun linen yarn

After reading some recipes for scouring flax, I realized I already had the perfect detergent – Charlies Soap powdered laundry detergent. I could go on forever about how wonderful this detergent is. I discovered it when I was cloth diapering my kids, and now I will never use any other detergent as long as they keep making this stuff. It does what laundry detergent is supposed to – cleans your clothes, then washes out. What a radical idea, huh? When I feel other people’s clothes, they feel heavy and waxy from all of the detergent and dryer sheet residue. Several members of my family with sensitive skin get rashes from wearing clothes washed in other detergent, since most detergents these days are designed to leave residue in your clothes so dyes, brighteners, scent, softeners, and other toxic stuff are left on the fabric. OK, I’ll stop gushing about my laundry detergent now. Maybe.

I plied my yarn, then boiled it with some Charlies Soap powdered detergent for a couple of hours. I ended up with 44 yards of yarn.

scoured double ply linen yarn

I wanted to make something small that I would actually use regularly, so I knitted the yarn into a dishcloth using this pattern. The non-stretchy linen yarn was very difficult to knit with, so next time I have some linen yarn I’ll try crocheting instead.

The dishcloth was supposed to be square, but my yarn thickness and tension varied, so it came out skewed. The shape reminds me of a stingray. It can go swimming in my kitchen sink.

knitted linen dishcloth

So, the question is, will I do a better job keeping up with washing the dishes now that I have this lovely dishcloth to use?

Posted in Growing and processing flax

A Little Tip for Trueing up Darts

If you’ve made pattern alterations near a dart, rotated a dart, or made your own pattern, you’ll need to true up the edges of the pattern at the darts so the dart excess lines up properly when the darts are sewn and pressed into place.

Every patternmaking book I’ve read says to fold your paper along the dart stitching lines, fold the dart down or to the center, and then cut the paper along the outer edge of the seam allowance. I always find it difficult to fold an accurate dart in paper, though. Even worse, If I’ve altered a pattern, it’s typically a mess of tape holding bits and pieces of paper together, and there’s no way I could fold it accurately. Also, I’d rather not crease up my patterns if I can avoid it.

One solution is to trace just the dart area onto another piece of paper, fold and cut the paper, then trace the shape onto the pattern. However, I find the following method is easier and faster. This method uses principles of geometry, but don’t worry, you won’t need to do any math calculations.

Step 1:  Draw in the centerline of the dart.

dart 2 centerline

Step 2: Cut a scrap of paper that has at least one straight edge. Align the straight edge along the dart leg that the dart will be folded toward (generally the dart will be folded either down or toward the center).

dart 3 paper scrap

Step 3:  Trace the edge of the pattern onto the scrap of paper. Make a little mark to mark the angle at the end of the dart leg. Also mark the edge of the paper that is aligned with the dart leg. These marks will keep you from getting the scrap of paper flipped around the wrong way.

dart 4 paper scrap marked

Step 5:  Cut your scrap of paper along the traced line. Flip over the scrap of paper along the edge that was aligned with the dart leg. Trace along the edge of the paper from the end of the dart leg to the centerline as shown below.

dart 5 paper scrap flipped over

The dart should now look like this:

dart 6 first line traced

Step 6A:  If your pattern edges are straight near the dart, you can just draw a straight line connecting the other dart leg to the centerline.

dart 7 finished

Step 6B:  If your pattern edges are curved near the dart, place the scrap of paper right side up against the other dart leg and trace the outer edge.

dart trace if curved

Step 7:  Feel clever and admire your uncreased pattern.

Posted in Patternmaking

Lark Tee with an FBA

I need all new short and long sleeved t-shirts, and my attempt at making a pattern from a ready-to-wear tee didn’t work out very well, so I decided to give the new Grainline Lark Tee pattern a try.

I haven’t had much luck with getting patterns to fit me in the past, but recently I bought a copy of the out of print Simplicity 9900 pattern, which includes a basic fitting pattern in a range of sizes. I have a custom fitting shell that I draped, so I compared it to the Simplicity pattern. I was surprised to find I no longer have sloping shoulders to deal with – I guess my efforts to keep my shoulders back have paid off! Anyway, I decided that for loose fitting patterns, I can probably get away with making length adjustments, moving the shoulder seam forward, and doing a full bust adjustment.

I decided to just blindly make these fitting changes to the Lark tee pattern to see how they worked out (spoiler – it worked great!). The first thing I had to do was pick a size to start with, though. Easier said than done! Here are my current measurements:
Bust:  38″
Upper bust:  33″ or 34″ This measurement can be subjective – taking a “snug” measurement leaves room for interpretation.
Chest (under bust):  30″
Waist:  31″
Hip:  39 1/2″

I’ve never understood the logic behind selecting a pattern based on the upper bust measurement. If I did that, I’d have a large full bust adjustment to make, which would be hard to do for a knit pattern. Instead, I started with my chest measurement, and using the typical US calculations for bra sizing, came up with a theoretical bust size of 36″ if my breasts were B-cups (add 6″ to the chest measurement if it’s an even number, or 7″ if it’s odd). This seemed more reasonable – I’d only need to add 2″ to the front in the bust area.

I cut a size 8 in the shoulder and chest area and blended to a size 10 at the waist and hips. Then I shortened the body 3″, shortened the long sleeve 2″, shortened the 3/4 length sleeve 1 1/2″, and moved the shoulder seam forward 7 mm. (Yeah, I mix unit types all the time. Haven’t had any disasters yet . . .)

Now for the full bust adjustment. I had read this post on knit FBA’s, and I used those ideas as a starting place, but I pretty much just made this up as I went along. The picture below shows what I did. I slashed and spread the pattern as for a typical FBA, then trimmed off half of the width of the new dart from the underarm. This lengthened the armhole seam, but this extra length eased into the sleeve without any problems. I eased the rest of the dart width into the side seam over a length of 8″. I added corresponding notches to the back side seam. The blue line is the shape I used for my first try (the blue t-shirt below), and the red line is the final shape I used later for all of the other tees.

Lark tee FBA

I’ve been in stashbusting mode, so I pulled out everything in my stash that could possibly be made into a Lark tee, and started sewing. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Lark Tee #1 3/4 sleeves and crew neck:

This blue fabric is a vintage poly/cotton blend that I picked up at a thrift store. It’s a 1×1 rib knit with no vertical stretch, but stretches easily crosswise. This fabric worked quite well for this pattern. I can’t stand the feel of polyester, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to actually wear this shirt, but it worked well as a muslin.

I wasn’t sure at first how I would like high sleeve caps on a t-shirt. In general, I prefer being able to lift my arms easily over looking nice with my arms at my side. The high sleeve caps means extra fabric bunches at the shoulders when I lift my arms.

Lark Tee 1 arms lifted

Then I remembered that this pattern was designed for layering, and I put on the down vest that I practically live in all winter over the Lark tee. It was really comfortable! The high sleeve caps mean no bulk under the arms. I hadn’t realized how irritating that wad of fabric under my arms was until it wasn’t there. I’m willing to deal with a little pulling when I raise my arms for the trade-off of comfortable underarms when my arms are lowered. I’m going to make a bunch of Lark tee’s for the winter, and then look for another pattern to use when I’m warm enough not to need lots of layers.

My first attempt at the FBA left a bubble of fabric. It’s not too obvious with my arms lowered, but I made pattern corrections for the later versions of the tee.

Lark Tee 1 FBA Bubble

This fabric stretched out really easily, so I experimented with stabilizing the neckline with watered down school glue. It worked fine, and washed out without any trouble. It made topstitching around the neck band easy.

Glue stabilize neckline

Lark Tee #2 Long sleeves and V-neck:

This is the most comfortable long sleeved shirt I’ve ever had! I upcycled a couple of my old maternity t-shirts to make this tee. Unfortunately, even though I used ball point sewing machine needles, they punched holes in the old fabric, so this shirt will have a limited lifespan. This fabric is also a 1×1 rib knit.

The easing for the FBA is less noticeable on this version. I absolutely love the results of doing an FBA instead of just cutting a larger size. The shirt fits across the chest and shoulders, the hem does not pull up in front, and I still get a slim fit at the waist and hips. All of my RTW t-shirts are either too tight across the chest or huge all over.

Lark tee 2 side

After seeing all of the sway-back wrinkles in the pictures, I considered making more pattern adjustments, but in the end I decided I’m happy with the shirts as-is. I’d rather not add more fullness around the hips, I can’t see the wrinkles in the back anyway, and no one else will notice or care.

I used a twin needle for the hems and neckline topstitching. I used woolly nylon in the bobbin, with my tension left at the usual settings. My woolly nylon was wound a little too tight, but the hems came out OK. I’ve tried so many different things to get twin needle hems to work on knits. This time I serged the edge with a four-thread stitch, pressed up the hem, and used washable glue stick to hold it in place before stitching. So far, this combination has worked the best. Usually I end up with popped stitches after the garment is worn a few times.

The twin needle topstitching around the neckline was a disaster, though. It looked fine at first, but after going through the washer and dryer, it did this:

Lark tee 2 hems and neckline disaster

I picked out the topstitching, starched the neckline, and tried topstitching with single thread chain stitches on my vintage Singer Touch & Sew. Much better. (The picture below was taken after the starch was washed out.)

Lark tee 2 neckline fixed

Lark Tee #3 Short sleeves and scoop neck:

I bought a knit dress at a thrift store because it had nice buttons. After taking off the buttons I kept the dress, since there was a fair amount of fabric in the skirt, and I can’t throw away fabric that might be useful! Well, I finally used it. The fabric is medium to heavy weight cotton jersey. I tested the stretch of this fabric, and it had 20% stretch, so I hoped it would be OK. It turned out to be too firm, though. For this pattern, you don’t need fabric that stretches a lot, but it needs to stretch to 20% easily. Think 1×1 rib knits (aka baby rib knits) and drapey jerseys. This shirt is pretty snug. It feels OK until I try to lift my arms. I have RTW shirts that are just as tight though, so I might wear it until I make something better. Anyway, at least I learned something and it didn’t cost me anything to make.

Lark tee 3

Lark Tee #4 Long sleeves and scoop neck:

I made this shirt out of lightweight cotton/lycra jersey with four way stretch. I think it will work nicely as an under layer.

Lark tee 4

One last note on sewing Larks: I wondered if I should stabilize the shoulder seams, since it is not mentioned in the instructions. After sewing a few of these, I’d recommend using 1/4″ clear elastic to the stabilize the shoulder seam only if your fabric has poor recovery (it doesn’t bounce back into shape after being stretched), but otherwise don’t add anything to the shoulder seam. The pattern is designed to stretch to fit across the shoulders, so you definitely don’t want to add a strip of selvage to the shoulder seam.

I have some lightweight wool blend jersey that I’m going to make into at least one Lark tee, maybe more if it doesn’t end up being too scratchy. After that I’ll have used up all of the decent sized pieces of knit fabric in my stash, so I’ve given myself permission to actually buy some more fabric! Larks will definitely be a staple in my wardrobe this cold season.

Posted in Sewing

Does Temporary Basting Spray Wash Out?

quilt basting sprays

In case you don’t want to read this whole long post, the short answer is no, quilter’s temporary basting spray does not wash out. It will eventually stop being sticky, but I don’t think it actually goes away when washed (at least the two brands I tried didn’t wash out when washed in cold water).

I used Sullivans Quilt Basting Spray to adhere two layers of fabric together when I made pajamas for my kids a few years ago. Several washes later, the fabric was still stuck together. After many washes, the stickiness seemed to be mostly gone, but I’d hoped this stuff actually washed out, and it didn’t seem to. I think it only stopped being sticky because lint from the fabric covered the adhesive.

So, based on my experience, when I read that Madalynne uses basting spray to adhere lace to fabric when she makes bras, my first thought was “Ew, gross.” My second thought was that maybe the brand of basting spray she uses, Odif 505 Spray, washes out better that the stuff I had. I did some internet research, and I found some people saying it washes out, and some people saying it doesn’t. On this 505 Spray FAQ it says “The bond will release when washed.” That seemed very carefully worded to me – notice they are not saying that it washes out.

Well, I finally decided to just buy some 505 Spray and test it myself. I compared 505 Spray to my 10 or more year old can of Sullivans spray. New Sullivans Quilt Basting Spray cans are labeled “new and improved” so your results may vary.

I figured while I was testing basting sprays, I’d test all the other products I use for sewing that are supposed to wash out. I’ve always wondered if they are leaving secret gooey residue inside my clothes. I tested Wonder Tape double sided tape, Solvy water soluble stabilizer, Sticky Fabri-Solvy water soluble stabilizer, Elmer’s Washable School Glue, and Elmer’s Washable Glue Stick. I also sprayed Solvy with both kinds of basting spray to make it into sticky stabilizer.

I made test swatches with each thing I tested sandwiched between two layers of fabric. I ironed the upper half of each test swatch to see if that had any affect on the results.

I sewed the test swatches into a little quilt. I quilted it together with chain stitches so it would be easy to take apart after washing, then I washed it on cold in my front loading washer and dried it in the dryer.

samples sewn into quilt

Here are my results:

    1. 505 Spray lightly sprayed on one piece of fabric:  Ironing the fabric made the tackiness go away on the freshly sprayed fabric, and the fabric no longer stuck together there, but I didn’t notice a difference between the two sides after washing. After washing, there was a very slight sticky feeling on the fabric, and the two layers of fabric barely stuck together. I would say that washing reduced the tackiness a little, but it didn’t wash out.
    1. 505 Spray heavily sprayed on one piece of fabric:  When 505 is sprayed heavily (not recommended), it builds up on the surface of the fabric and looks like a layer of frost. With such a thick layer, ironing did not have a noticeable affect before or after washing. After washing, there was a noticeable tacky feeling on the fabric, and the two layers stuck together more than the lightly sprayed sample.
    1. Sullivans Spray lightly sprayed on one piece of fabric:  Sullivans is stickier than 505 Spray. After washing, the lightly sprayed Sullivans sample was stickier than the heavily sprayed 505 sample. I don’t think washing reduced the stickiness. Ironing did not have any affect before or after washing.
    1. Sullivans Spray heavily sprayed on one piece of fabric: Unlike 505 Spray which builds up on the surface when you use too much, Sullivans soaks into the fabric. The fabric was very sticky before and after washing. After washing, the side of the fabric that was sprayed had a rubbery feel to it where the spray had soaked in. The two pieces of fabric remained tightly adhered together after washing. Ironing did not have any affect before or after washing.
    1. Wonder Tape double sided wash-away basting tape:  I sandwiched the tape between two layers of fabric then stitched over it with three rows of stitching. Ironing did not have any affect before or after washing. After washing, there was a sticky white fibrous residue left. You can see the vertical stripes of residue in the photo below:wondertape residue
    1. Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy: This washed out completely. Ironing causes Sticky Fabri-Solvy to shrink, but it does not affect how well it washes out.
    1. Sulky Fabri-Solvy:  This washed out completely. Ironing causes Fabri-Solvy to shrink, but it does not affect how well it washes out.
    1. Sulky Fabri-Solvy lightly sprayed with 505 and adhered to fabric:  The Fabri-Solvy washed away, but there was a slight stickiness left on the fabric from the spray.
    1. Sulky Fabri-Solvy heavily sprayed with 505 and adhered to fabric:  The Fabri-Solvy washed away, but there was a noticeable stickiness left on the fabric from the spray. The two layers of fabric were stuck together.
    1. Sulky Fabri-Solvy lightly sprayed with Sullivans and adhered to fabric:  The Fabri-Solvy washed away, but the fabric was sticky. The two layers of fabric were stuck together.
    1. Sulky Fabri-Solvy heavily sprayed with Sullivans and adhered to fabric:  The Fabri-Solvy washed away, but the fabric was very sticky. The two layers of fabric were stuck together.
    1. Two layers of Sulky Fabri-Solvy lightly sprayed with Sullivans and adhered to fabric: I sprayed one layer of Fabri-Solvy with Sullivans spray, put another layer of Fabri-Solvy on it, sprayed that, then put fabric on it. After washing, the fabric was about as sticky as sample #10.
    1. Elmer’s Washable School Glue: I dotted one piece of fabric with glue, then placed another piece of fabric on top. I used bigger drops of glue than I typically use when sewing. Ironing dries the glue quickly, but does not affect how well it washes out. The glue washed out completely.Elmers school glue dots
  1. Elmer’s Washable Glue Stick:  I smeared an even layer of glue over one piece of fabric, added a few large globs, then placed another piece of fabric on top. Ironing dries the glue quickly, but does not affect how well it washes out. The glue washed out completely.Elmers washable glue stick


I don’t think either basting spray I tested washes out at all, at least with one cold wash. The 505 Spray residue was less objectionable, but it was still there. Time and multiple washings should reduce the stickiness of the residue, but I don’t know if the residue itself ever actually goes away. I will probably not be using “temporary” basting spray on my clothes, because as far as I can tell, it leaves a permanent residue on the fabric, which just grosses me out. I don’t want chemicals on my clothes. I might use 505 Spray on a quilt, since it makes quilting so much easier, and it’s not likely to be directly in contact with my skin for prolonged periods. I wouldn’t use it on a baby quilt, though. I don’t know if the dried residue is toxic or not, but I’d want to err on the side of safety, since you know at some point the baby will be chewing on a wet corner of the quilt.

Wonder Tape leaves a residue, but I usually use it to hold zippers in place, so it’s probably not hurting anything in that situation. The residue seemed to stay on the surface of the fabric. It didn’t look like it was absorbing into the fabric. I would hesitate to use it on something like a knit hem, since I’m not sure how that sticky strip would affect the look of the hem (plus I’m just too cheap to use such a long piece of this tape). Hopefully the sticky residue washes out eventually with additional washing, although I’m guessing the fibers would stay in place if they are enclosed between layers of fabric. I have to say the claim on the package that it “completely disappears in first washing” does not seem to be true.

I’m not going to be tempted to try to save money by spraying Fabri-Solvy with basting spray to make it sticky, since the basting spray leaves a residue. I’ll just buy the Sticky Fabri-Solvy, since it washes away completely. I’m glad to find out that Sticky Fabri-Solvy washes out completely, since I’ve been using little pieces of this all the time lately. I usually use it to stabilize tricky to sew areas on knits, and it works beautifully.

Posted in Sewing

Seam Allowance Marking Templates

seam allowance guideI use little circles that my pencil goes through to mark seam allowances along curved seams, and a while back I created a tutorial for making these seam allowance guides by hand.

Recently I dropped the little box that I keep them in and lost the 1/4″ circle. It occurred to me that it would be easier to draw a new circle in Inkscape and print it out rather than drawing a new one manually.

So I thought, why not make a whole sheet of circles, so I can print new circles whenever I need to without having to redraw them? And if I’m going that far, why not make a metric set, too, and post them on my blog? So here they are: Imperial (inches) seam allowance guides and metric seam allowance guides. There are many sizes commonly used for seam allowances, plus larger sizes that you can use to draft facings.

To use these circles, print them out, preferably on heavy paper if you have some. If you have some full sheet adhesive labels, you could print onto those to make things easier. Make sure to print using the highest quality print settings and no scaling (100% or actual size). Measure the border to make sure it matches the dimensions printed in the upper right corner of the sheet.

These circles are not thick enough to work well on their own, even when printed on heavy paper. Roughly cut around a circle, then use double sided tape to stick it onto a piece of a thin, flexible plastic lid (like an HDPE margarine tub lid). Craft glue or rubber cement might work instead of double sided tape, if it will stick to the plastic.

If you don’t have an appropriate plastic lid to use, you can adhere the circles to a piece of paperboard, such as a piece of a cereal box, instead, but they won’t be quite as durable. If they wear out, you can easily make new ones, though! I used paperboard for the large sizes, since I didn’t have a plastic lid large enough. I also used clear box sealing tape over the circle to protect it, but that is optional.

After gluing or taping the circle onto plastic or paperboard, carefully cut out the circle. Use an awl or large needle to punch a hole in the center just large enough to fit your pencil lead through. Mechanical pencils work best, since the tip will always be the same size.

To use the seam allowance guides, stick your pencil lead through the hole in the middle, then run the edge of the circle along the stitching line. When you get to a corner or straight section, it helps to use the guide along the edge of a ruler.

Seam Allowance Guides

Seam Allowance Guides

Metric seam allowance guides

Metric seam allowance guides

Imperial (inches) seam allowance guides

Imperial (inches) seam allowance guides

Posted in Patternmaking, Sewing

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