Thursday, July 1, 2010

In Praise of Ol' Reliable

Subtitle: My machine can kick your machine's butt.

Why the name? Well, Ol' Reliable is old... The copyright dates in the manual start at 1915 and end at 1950. The largest gap between any two is 3 years. So, Ol' Reliable is probably born no later than 1953. Ol' Reliable is reliable. Like no other electical device I've ever owned.

Ol' Reliable is a Singer Featherweiht 221, and is the sewing machine I use for just about everything. Why? It's a workhorse. It sews and sews and sews. Sometimes it gets a little cranky, and I have to clean and oil it very well. Usually, I just oil it from time to time.

How reliable is Ol' Reliable? Well, see, I'm working on repairing one canvas tent and changing the door design in another. "Canvas tent?!?!", you say. Yes. Canvas. Tent.

Now, Ol' Reliable does have limits, and I'm not actually doing all of the tent work on it. That would be cruel and unusual punishment for a wonderful machine. I'm going over to a friend's house, and she had an industrial machine that I'll be using to finish everything, like sewing through the places where there will be 9 layers of canvas. But, I didn't want to spend days on end camped at the Shaw residence. I like them; they like me; I don't think they want me invading their home for days and days and days. So, I thought I'd do some work in advance.

I'm replacing each and every stake loop on a Panther Pyramid tent. Did Panther put the loops in poorly? Oh, heck, no! Panther rocks. And if I could afford a brand new Panther Primitives tent, I would buy one in a heartbeat. Sadly, I cannot. So, several years ago I bought a used one. From someone who abused the poor baby. The stake loops are rotting, several have ripped and been repaired (btw, if you're camping in an old canvas tent, bring along a really big needle, some nylon webbing, and some dental floss... minty fresh repairs that last quite a while). I thought about getting Panther to do the work. It would be more convenient, but more expensive. I did chat via email with them for quite a bit, and they said they've switched to using canvas rolled around nylon webbing. I bought some canvas that I needed for the other tent (doors and fly), but I cut a bit off the walls of that other tent and had spare canvas. And some regular nylon webbing from an old ratcheting tie-down. And some tubular nylon, which is like regular webbing on steroids.

So... I knew Ol' Reliable could sew through 2 layers of butch tent canvas. I hoped it could sew through 3. I was right. I hoped it could sew through 3 plus one layer of wimpy nylon webbing. Ol' Reliable laughed and said, "Bring it on!" 3 layers plus one layer of tubular nylon? "Oh, please, I'm a Singer Featherweight, not a Singer wimp!"

Ol' Reliable can sew through 3 layers of relatively fresh tent canvas, one layer of tubular nylon (which is actually two layers), and two layers of old tent. I had to oil the needle frequently, and I swear I heard Ol' Reliable panting and saying, "Are we almost done? I would really like to take a nap... No? Okay... IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan..."

Oh, heck yes!, Ol' Reliable is reliable. I have ripped out each and every one of those rotting stake loops and basted its replacement in place. Perfectly.

I love this machine!!!

(And now, I'm going to go oil it and thank it for working so very hard for me, then put it away in it's nice box and let it sleep for several days...)