The gold model is the Singer Golden Touch and Sew. I don't know for sure when they were mfg'd. My guess would be in the mid 60s. I sewed on them throughout high school and college. I graduated high school in 1970 and started sewing in 1965. They were considered to be wonderful machines at the time because they had a lot of decorative stitches but they had a lot of problems. They were famous because they were the first machines where you could wind the bobbin the machine. THe bobbin came apart and was a two piece plastic bobbin that didn't hold a lot of thread so it was good you could wind in place. During the time that they were at the top of the stack, double knits were introduced and this entire line of Touch and Sew machines...pink, green, turquoise, blue, grey (silver) and Gold (which was the TOL) couldn't sew knits for love or money. A special needle was developed called the Q needle (and foot) that was made for sewing knits with these. My degree was in home ec and I was always having problems with these machines. I would't walk across the street to kick one but there are plenty of people who absolutely loved them.
Dressmaker? I'm not sure. It was a fairly popular brand machine but I don't know who made it or how it was marketed. I'm thinking it was a made in Taiwan type machine. Some of the early models of those machines were pretty good (not anymore except perhaps the Janome, which is doing fine). It could have even been a store brand. Sears had their Kenmore. As far as I know, Wards machines just came as Wards (although they, like Sears and Penneys) just contracted with whom ever to make the machines. It might have been a JC Penney brand. I don't know what their machine brand was. Wards was still selling machines as late as the early-mid 90's. Penneys stopped in the 70's. At one point, if you had dry goods or a department store, you at least sold fabrics, often good fabrics and some of the larger stores also sold machines.
I had a favorite red jersey blouse in college that I wore all the time. That blouse bled for YEARS! You can try putting your fabric in a cool soaking wash with vinegar. That will often set colors. Also Ritz now makes a solution that should be with their dyes that will set colors. There is also a sheet you can put in your wash solution that will keep the colors from bleeding on others. It is sold with the dryer sheets in the stores. If I had a particularly difficult bleeding problem, I don't know if I'd trust all my laundry to it or not..but I have had sucess in using with fabrics that bleed some.
One thing you can do for your sewing machine. Get some sort of Glad Wrap or Saran Wrap and cover the areas of your machine where the fabric may rub...don't get near the slide plate or any of the areas where it might get caught in the feed dogs or needle but wrap the throat and the side of your machine and in front. This will keep the dye from rubbing off on your machine as you sew. Sometimes if you get the dyes on your machines they can stay for quite a while.
When it comes to sewing you could be having several problems. If it is a long string of loops underneath (sounds like it might be), you may be by-passing the upper tension disks. Be sure that when you thread the machine you have your presser foot up and then check and make sure that your thread is getting into the disks. If they are internal, threading with the foot up should take care of it...if they are on the outside would be behind a knob usually with numbers on the front, you would need to physically make sure that the thread is in the spring and hook. Many new machines have internal tension disks, some new and most old machines have external tension disks.
If it is just at the beginning, bring up your thread, put it to the right back and leave it there. Take your first stitch on the inside edge of the fabric but put the needle down by hand using the hand wheel for the first stitch OR hold the top and bottom threads for the first 2-3 stitches.
Do not start off the fabric when you start sewing.
If your bobbin is locking up, make sure there is not even a whisper of a thread in the bobbin that is left over from the winding process...sometimes these will lock the machine up and cause all kinds of problems.
When we were in college we made muslins out of 1" or 1/2" gingham checks...not the cheesey kind that you often see now but they were basically woven cotton gingham. That allowed us to make sure that all grain was straight and gave us a very easy way to take things up. I really liked this...and by the time we were finished, we'd marked all over our muslins and moved darts, whatever.
However, muslins are traditionally made out of muslin fabric...again, not the cheesey fabric that is sometimes sold as muslin but good muslin is kind of rough and textured was somtimes used a cheap quilting fabrics and dish towels. But it was super cheap (most important). Was stable like an old sheet might be. You might even consider purchasing old sheets for this purpose. Muslin would come bleached and unbleached. Unbleached muslin was super thin. Often I'll just find a stable cheap fabric on the dollar table and buy a bolt of whatever they have (maybe two).
If, however you are using a knit, I would look for an inexpensive (probably ugly) knit where I could pick up several yards for a song and use that for knit garments as a "muslin". As long as the fabric has similar stretch..that makes a world of difference in knit patterns.
Either should work fine. It just depends on how much fullness you want in your skirt.
If you happen to be working with a pattern, the pattern will have a grainline that points to the floor. Normal skirts are made so that the grainline is straight with the center of the skirt. However, skirts that are gored where you have several panels that are sewn together, have grainlines that run down the center of each panel. To make lay a pattern piece so that it is on the bias, draw a 45 degree angle through the straight of grain line. Then use that new line to lay your skirt.
There is nothing wrong with targeting a particular color of machine but sometimes companies will color a machine to be appealing when they don't have such a great machine to sell. Be sure and take into account what you are buying or you may be very disappointed. Too bad you don't like baby blue or purple...a lot of companies have lower end (sometimes even higher end machines) in those colors.
New machines have one needle shank with a double needles. Many of the older models had two holes where you could put two needles, which is MUCH more practical. If one of the newer double needles breaks or dulls, you are out $5. In the older model machines you were out just a needle. MOst commonly, double needles were used to thread two different threads for top stitching, sometimes for hemming. Now often you'll see them used even in decorative stitching. They not only save time if you are putting on a double topstitch, but if the line of stitching moves, both do...do if your topstitching is not perfect, it isn't as noticible.
The Slant O-Matic was a Singer patent..so you don't see it in other machines, at least not as an advertised advantage...over time, other machines may have adopted that. I don't remember what was so "great" about the machines.
The first looks like my old machine...and she is a honey. It and the second model were made by a company now known as Jaguar (or something like that) out of the orient. They were some of the best machines that Sears ever branded. You'll often find them for sale as "commercial" machines on Ebay for a pretty good hunk of change and as I remember, they were pretty heavy. They'll sew just about anything.
I took mine in for routine cleaning in 1991 and Sears broke the take up lever where it comes out of the motor...it is a part that is pretty much built into the body of the machine and can't be replaced. I got someone to cold sodder it..but in the process of breaking it in a very bad place, they also bent it. It won't hold a tension anymore (sad). Moral of the story...don't let those Bozos work on your machine.
Now, about the machine themselves....they are fully mechanical machines. The little door in the top opens and cams fit there. Mine was the TOL in 1974 it was a gift to me from my husband for our 6 mos anniversary...I knew then he was a keeper! I have no idea how long Sears used to carry these before they were rotated out but back in those years, new models of things like cars were changed every year. There is a good chance that it was introduced in Aug or Sep, 1973 and was TOL for one year. There were 4 boxes of accessories that were available for purchase with the machine...and I think that 3 came with it, since I didn't buy the machine I'm not sure...but you rarely see the 4th box. THe boxes that came with the machine were gray in color but Sears at some time sold red ones too...I can only assume the parts were interchangable. The boxes looked like books and you can get them on E-Bay. THey are usually around $15 a box.
The first box had what seemed like MILLIONS of parts and feet in it...they were all well made and worth the investment.
The second was a button holder. The buttonholer was flat, about 2 1/2 wide. There was a screw in the back that went into a hole behind the presser foot. THe part extended in front of the presser foot and there was a little knob and a wide bump. Along with that part were cams which fed into the attachment. They were labeled by size and had a picture of the button hole. You would turn the knob to feed the cam into the attachment. Once there you would life the cam and it would snap in a gear on the slide plate (oh, forgot, you changed the slide plate to use this. As the machine moved, the gear would turn and it would sew the pattern in the shape of the button hole as it rode along the button hole shape in the bottom of the template. Twice around...great button hole, nice and even.
The second box was a multitude of embellishing designs...common designs you might find on any sewing machine...but this had no computerized parts...so the designs worked much like the button hole. There was a little rod that was in the top of the machine. The designs were like you had drawn them on a piece of paper and then cut them so that they were stretched out. They "stretched out version was then shaped on the bottom of each cam. As you sewed, the rod would ride along the bottom of the cam, controlling the direction of the needle and shaping the design on your fabric. Simple designs were once around the cam, more complicated designs were two tier.
The forth box was (I think) optional...as I have never seen it on E-Bay..it was a box of monogram cams. These worked just as the design cams.
I don't know why the machine is sewing backwards, could be something as simple as something being stuck. I haven't even seen my machine since 1991 so I don't remember some of the fine points. As I remember, the little slide lever that pushes down on the right side is the reverse. Sometimes machines that sew in reverse have a prolem that needs attention. You might check with a GOOD (NON-SEARS) repairman about this. Since the machine is mechanical, probably anyone that is willing can work on it. I believe the machine has a dial that puts it in modes (can't remember). It could be that one of those is affecting the hand wheel.
The buzz could be related to the first problem, however. Is it possible that the bobbin winder is engaged. In the early machine models, you released a disk in the center of the hand wheel to disengage the needle and wind the bobbin. On later models, you simply moved the silver bar at the top into the bobbin. I don't recall this machine having the disk in the hand wheel but the machine I had before it did....and I may not recall because it was so routine I didn't think about it. Commonly, if there is a buzz and the needle doesn't move with the hand wheel, even now, the bobbin winder is engaged (or the machine thinks it is). This one might also engage with that silver squarish button on the top front...you might see if that is down...I believe it should be up for sewing. When I look at it, that seems familiar....things like winding bobbins just become so automatic because you do it so often, you don't think about it.
Either of the first two machines are real honeys! I've been searching for them for several years...now they are FINALLY beginning to show up on places like E-Bay but for a premium I can't afford...so...I still wait. You are very lucky!
As for threading, that's simple...it is always right to left, up to down, up and down. You'll start from the spool pin to a clip (as I remember) at the back of the machine, in line with that split that runs across the machine...thread in the tunnel, down to the external tension disk. Around the disk...pull across the top to the right to lift the spring at the top of the disk, pull the thread toward you to lock the thread in the hook, relax your grip. THe spring will close. Then up to the take up lever and down to the base of the machine. I think there is a bar there to hold the thread away from the machine and the take up lever slit...don't remember a clip (might be one)..then I believe there is a clip somewhere just above the needle, possibly on the needle bar. When you sew with a double needle on this machine, you can actually use two standard needles, one on each side. THere are two vertical spool pins for this machine. Double needle top stitching was a common application in the 70's (leisure suits and all...we also did a LOT of tailoring.)
It's a little hard to tell from you description but I think you need to tighten the UPPER tension to get it to draw out of your fabric. I think you are describing something like nesting but it is in long chenielle loops, some may even be broken? If so, that it top thread and the tension needs to be tighter. Make sure that you threaded the machine with the presser foot up if it is a newer machine. If it has external tension (the dial with the hook and spring) make sure that the tension is in the dial. More tension is a higher upper number. WHen you added more fabric and batting you will have changed the amount of tension needed to draw the upper thread from the lower portion of the machine..the looping is because the thread is being drawn from the spool, not the hook area...so you get long loops...when doing embroidery, these become nests because the machine doesn't advance like it does in sewing. You may need to also use a sharper needle (not a universal, which is somewhat blunt and certainly not a ball)..try a microtex or sharp needle and see if that helps too. It may help a bit just to change the needle to a new one.
THe screw is usually used with a large washer to help cover the hole. THe square hole is for leg lifts and such. Some of these cabomets have a handle that lifts up and down (also lock) so that you can lower your machine to flat or lift to clean or change bobbins. You can have an insert made so that the space around the machine is not open. You may even be able to order then insert to fit your particular machine.