This is the sewing machine I inherited from my great-grandmother, via my great aunt and my mother, who gave it to me two years ago. My mom was very close to my great aunt Fran when she was growing up, so in honor of Aunt Fran, I've named her Frances.
I've been wanting to try her out ever since I got her two years ago, but I got distracted by other things, and then I discovered the needles she needs (and everything else, for that matter) are no longer generally available. I have half a dozen of the original needles, but I wasn't willing to use any of them until I found a source for replacing them. I am pleased to report that eBay came through for me again; I have a pile of "new old stock" needles on their way.
With no more excuses, I returned my mother's sewing machine so I wouldn't be tempted to take the easy way out and sat down yesterday afternoon to figure out how to use her. I spent the entire afternoon reading the manual and trying out different things, like this seam guide:
I learned to wind the bobbin, which was interesting. This is the bobbin winder:
It's not intuitive. And the manual is perhaps a bit more vague than a modern one would be. I spent at least two hours trying to locate the "brake button", including a lengthy visit to Google, with no success. Somewhere on the machine is a button that stops the sewing mechanism while you wind the bobbin, but I played with every single part of that machine and never found it. It's not on any of the diagrams in the manual, and there is only the single reference to it, so I couldn't work it out from context. Finally I decided to just wind the bobbin without stopping the mechanism. It worked fine, although it was a little noisy.
After I got the bobbin wound, I realized I had wound it with the wrong color thread (natch). There is only one bobbin, and it is nothing like a modern bobbin. I thought for a long time about how to handle this without having to unroll all the thread on the bobbin. Eventually I had the brilliant idea to see what sort of bobbin my other antique machine has. Sure enough, it looked identical! I popped it into the bobbin winder and wound on the correct thread color. I carefully followed the manual's instructions on how to thread the shuttle (the shuttle in a "vibrating shuttle" machine like this holds the bobbin; the shuttle actually passes through the loop of upper thread under the needle with each stitch to lock it in place). I placed the shuttle back in the machine...and that should have been my first indication that something was wrong. The manual said nothing about having to force the shuttle back in place. I was certain I hadn't had to struggle to get it out. But there was no diagram showing how to put it back, and there was only one way I could get it back in, which wasn't easy. Still, I persevered, and finally got it clicked into the shuttle carrier.
And then I spent two more hours trying to get the needle to pick up the lower thread, entirely without success. I read the manual again. I searched the internet. I turned to my engineer husband. I printed out a schematic of how long shuttle machines work. Nothing. And then it occurred to me to try the original bobbin again. It picked up the thread the first time. It turns out, the two bobbins are not the same. They are very, very similar, but apparently close enough...isn't. Which is a shame, since I ordered ten more of the wrong bobbins from eBay before I realized this.
Another online search turned up not a single source for the bobbins for this machine. It looks like I'll have to make do with a single bobbin for now. [If anyone knows of a source for obscure bobbins, please drop me a line!]
I'm getting ready to start my second skirt now. This one will be made along the same lines as the first, but using Frances instead of my mom's Husqvarna. And then we'll see whether I can get along with this 70-year-old machine, or whether I'll have to break down and buy something from this century.