One of the things I love most about vintage sewing machines is the incredible array of attachments available. The equivalent of tech gadgets of today, it never ceases to amaze me what these mechanical wonders of yore can accomplish with relatively simple mechanisms and extraordinary ingenuity.
The Singer Deluxe Monogrammer dates back to 1969 and is one of my all-time favorite attachments, a close second to the Singer automatic buttonholer.
Singer actually made two different monogrammers. The Singer Deluxe Monogrammer which makes oversized initials approximately 1 1/2 inches tall and the Singer Monogrammer which makes initials about a 1/2 inch tall.
In order to use the Deluxe Monogrammer, you will either need to lower your feed dogs, or in the case of the Rocketeer, raise your needle plate. The monogrammer has it's own feed system and like the buttonholer, the feed is dictated by following the pattern on the inserted cam. Its square platform acts as a presser foot and the bottom is lined with rubber to hold your fabric in place.
As far as I know, there are 28 cams available. One for each letter of the alphabet (capitals only) plus two decorative patterns: a flower and a clover. Unlike the buttonholer cams, these long, rectangular inserts vary greatly in length depending on the complexity of the pattern.
Cams are loaded channelled edge first into a slot on the left of the attachment. The grooves in the cam then lock into a toothed gear within the attachment. Once loaded, twist the cam positioner knob clockwise to position the cam at the starting line. If you overshoot, just keep twisting until the cam comes out the other end and try again.
In order to help you position your monograms, each cam comes with plastic stenciled template. Here you can see the letter 'A' as well as both the flower and clover patterns.
This attachment is huge! You really only get a sense of its size when it gets mounted onto a machine. Here we have the slant shank version of the Deluxe Monogrammer mounted on a Singer 500a Rocketeer. The part number is 171276. To install the monogrammer, you'll first need to remove your presser foot and thumbscrew. Like the buttonholer, you'll use a longer thumbscrew included with the attachment. When mounting, be sure to secure the forked arm such that it straddles the needle-bar hub. The fork actuates the monogrammer as the needle bar moves up and down.
The monogrammer works best with thicker materials, so if you're sewing on a thin fabric, you'll be best served by using some stabilizer. I'll demonstrate on three pieces of muslin. Use the provided stencil to position the pattern then lightly mark the four guides for placement.
Here I'm verifying my positioning with the stencil in place. There are two holes in the stencil that snap onto to pins in the presser foot. If your fabric is too thick, you can use the included plastic fabric shield to help load everything under the foot.
Unlike the classic buttonholers for straight stitch machines, the width of the Deluxe Monogrammer patterns are controlled by the zigzag width on your machine. While you can use this on a non zigzag capable machine, you'll end up drawing an initial that is one thread width wide. After setting your width, set your stitch length to the fine sewing area. While technically this shouldn't matter too much as the needle plate is raised, we want to prevent the feed dogs from interfering should fabric get caught under the needle plate.
When you're ready to sew, remove the stencil and turn the balance wheel by hand to raise your bobbin thread. You want to hold onto both threads for the first few stitches to get started.
Now just sit back and let the Monogrammer do its thing. When finished, the red flag will pop out.
There you have it! A beautifully stitched monogram!
You can do all sorts of tricks with these by varying your zigzag width and by layering monograms on top of each other to create an embossed look. Experiment and most of all have fun!
As aforementioned, this particular Deluxe Monogrammer is the slant shank version. There is also a low shank version available but they were produced in much smaller quantities and therefore, somewhat rare in comparison. If you can't find a Singer low shank model, go for the Sear Kenmore Monogrammer instead. It is exactly the same thing but in a different color. The monogrammers themselves, can often be had for very little on eBay. The cams, however, are a different story altogether. The reason for this is that the Deluxe Monogrammers were sold with only the flower pattern plus 3 cams of your choice, so unless your initials match the original owner's initials, you'll need to hunt for more letters. This also means that less popular letters are more uncommon. That being said, with a little bit of patience, you'll have a full complement of letters in no time!
Have you ever used a vintage monogrammer?