For Christmas, my uncle gave me a plastic bag of some old sewing stuff - a few spools of thread, a half used pack of machine needles, and a box with a bunch of Greist sewing machine attachments. Whenever I see those old attachments for machines, i think to myself "like hell I'm going to make a button hole with that contraption - my new machine will do it with one push of a button". I read the little booklet that came with it though - because I get a huge kick out of vintage manuals (and cookbooks, which seem to have the same breezy style of writing.) They aren't technical manuals - they explain it as if they're talking to you, and contain lines like "of course you'll take care of your attachments by keeping them clean and oiled" then they have a little picture of a girl with a giant oil can oiling the spots they've pointed out in the picture. Frankly, there were some amazing attachments there - two hemmers (very narrow and 1/4") with this unbelievable metal snail shell coil that just wraps the fabric around into a tiny perfect hem. I think there are about 10 different pieces there - and amazingly all the pieces are still in the box.
This attachment though, was clearly the queen of the collection. The Ruffler. I don't even think you can get the full impact from these pictures of just how amazingly complex it is. This is one side - the clear knob there is how you adjust how much fabric you want put into each ruffle or tuck - there's a gauge on the other side with marks from 1 to 8 and you slide it to adjust. The manual talked though each part and what it did. unbelievable.
On this side you can see that little gauge. On the top of the gauge, there's a bit where you decide how often you want the gather to happen - every stitch, every 6 stitches, or every 12. there are two little rows of teeth that the fabric feeds though on the bottom, then as you're stitching there's a toothy bar that come out every 1,6, or 12 stitches and tucks in the correct amount of fabric. I can't explain how cool this is. Let me just say I nearly started crying.
This is an example of gathering every stitch, with a fairly large amount of fabric in each tuck.
Then this is a pleat every 6 stitches. See how tight that is? it comes out almost like it's been pressed - it was the same way with the narrow hem. Perfect.
This is a smaller pleat every 12 stitches.
Obviously the look can be changed dramatically with your stitch length and the combination of tuck frequency and tuck amount. I think what amazed me the most was that it was just so mechanical and precise and you could see exactly what it was doing. it's so different from the electronics that we're used to now - you don't really know how things are working because you can't see the things that are happening - it's on a nano scale. This isn't. I LOVE my new machine for everything it does, but nothing compares to this.
One of my favorite shows on TV (and I'll admit this sounds stupid and nerdy) is How It's Made - it's Canadian and they show how, well, various things are made. My least favorite segments are about big things like RVs and hockey sticks (they do a lot of hockey related segments, as you might imagine). The ones I like most are factories that make things like erasers and chains links - small things with complex equipment that they slow down to show the precise action. It amazes me that the equipment to make that thing was designed to do just that motion perfectly. That's how I feel about this ruffler attachment.