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Vintage and Antique Sewing Machines


If you're reading this page for the first time, you may want to scroll down to read the chapters in sequential order. To save later scrolling, I'm entering new chapters one by one at the top of the page, following the brief "Related  Online Resources."

Related Online Resources
I've discovered some wonderful Facebook pages that are dedicated to helping us learn about old sewing machines.  The first one I found is Vintage Sewing Machines which hosts a large number of enthusiastic restorers of these old beauties. Cindy Peters shares a wealth of information on this page, and sells parts for vintage sewing machines of all brands. She sells only proven quality parts and can be reached by email: SAD UPDATE: CINDY PETERS PASSED AWAY  RECENTLY AND HER EMAIL LINK WILL BE DISABLED MID APRIL, 2019. She will be sadly misssed, and without her, and without my husband Rick, who passed away just a few years ago, Quilters' Quarters will no longer be accessing vintage parts for machine restoration. 

And the second is a page devoted to the small but powerful Singer Featherweight 221 and 222's which is hosted by a couple named Carmon and April Henry, who have a business online called April1930's serving up parts and advice for the FW community.

April 3 2022

I'm very excited to find a second 1950 Snger model 221 Featherweight with a Centennial Badge ... (I'll clean her up and take another picture once she arrives here.) I had one but gave it to a friend a few years ago ... I'd heard that some 1950's had the badge and now I wonder how many? This one is dated in October .... the first one I had was dated in December of '50. Ironically, I had a friend who had a 1951 WITHOUT the Centennial badge, and hers, too, was dated in December (of '51.)

February 26, 2022

The 'celery green' (more commonly called the white) Singer Featherweight 221 arrived yesterday in town, but with the foot of snow falling throughout the day hampered delivery, so I went to the post office today to pick it up. Here it is ~ unnamed as yet. It came safely wrapped in a big box of baby diapers (minus the diapers.)

February 19, 2022

She arrived today! The 1946 Featherweight that I ordered for me came today, with her pretty scroll plate face and her shiny decals. But most appealing to me was her carry case with the top tray (which Singer discontinued in 1949, replacing all faces from 1950 on with the striated plate face.) She came in wonderful, shiny condition, packed expertly with no damage in shipping. Her only oops is one broken latch on her carry case, but I was able to locate one for sale on a Facebook buy/sell page, and it will be here in a week or so. I'm making her a fabric shield to protect to fold up extension bed from scratching by the face  plate. 

February 13, 2022

The dreary, gray days of late winter continue, and so does my perusing of Featherweights on eBay... I've bid and won on two more black Featherweights, one a 1953 and another a 1946. They are due to arrive by the end of the month, and I'll be ready to work on them in my Sewing Machine Maintenance workshops later this spring. When they are beautiful and in good working order I'll be ready to find their new homes, and then start on more. I look forward to sharing these machines with family and friends. But I think I will keep the '46 here with me... she has a beautiful scroll face plate. 

February 9, 2022

 The latest 221 Featherweight arrived here from California. After a ten day travel in freezing cold temperatures, she sounds good and makes beautiful straight stitches. I'll let her sit out of her case tonight in the warm house, and try her again tomorrow to see if warming up helps. The motor runs slowly but smoothly, but the bobbin  winder is slower still and a bit jerky. I remember reading about slow motors and warming them with a hair dryer after lubing them. 

She is a 1952 and needs a good polishing. The seller packed this one expertly! It took me nearly 45 minutes to get the double box lined with styrofoam strips open!

February 5, 2022

Two and half years have passed, and I've continued downsizing the sewing machine collection.  Most recently, for Solstice celebration 2021, I gave my white 1964 221 Featherweight to my grandson's friend Brooke, and my 1934 Featherweight to my granddaughter, Zoe. The girls plan to get together now and then to sew on their new antiques, and I am happy to know that they will be used by these special people for years ahead.

I had also, earlier in 2021, given my 1950 Centennial badged 221 to my friend Donna who makes many quilts for her friends, family and various charities. She is another who will enjoy using the Featherweight. 

I've received more machines in the meantime, and brought them over to the senior center for use there. One was a babylock, and I gave that to a young student. Another was a Kenmore that had been left at the door of the senior center in a cute white plastic case embossed with roses, and one of my friends decided she had to have it, and paid for its repairs and made a donation as well to the senior center. 

I still have the 1951 unbadged Centennial 221 Featherweight from my friend Laura, who may someday realize she'd like to have it back so i keep it ready for her. I've also kept the 1904 model 27 Singer treadle with Sphinx/Memphis decals that I'd bought believing it might be the type my grandmothers would have used ... and the 1922 model 66 Treadle with Red Eye decals that was my sister Betty's mother in law's machine. I have the White 1914 Family Rotary treadle that another friend gave to me to make room for her gatherings but may one day wish she had it back.  And of course, I kept the little 99 that Rick and rescued from a very rusted state and converted to a handcrank and now sits in a beautiful wooden base that Rick made for it. In this photo it is on top of his mother's Brother zig-zag machine cabinet, another that I will be keeping. You will find photos and the stories of most of these machines in the posts below. 

This week I've ordered, from eBay, another 221 Featherweight to keep for myself. It's dated in the 1950s, I forget which year, and I got it at auction for a fair price, under $400 with shipping. It will be here in a week, and I look forward to getting to know it and to using it. I'll post its photo here once it arrives and takes its place. I'll call it my birthday present. I know Rick would be happy about that.

October 7, 2019

The day has come ... I am downsizing the collection of antique treadle heads and cabinets.  My wish to continue restoration and promotion of these wonderful treasures has waned since the death of my husband and, soon after, my parts supplier, Cindy Peters.  I've found homes already for two of the Singer treadle tables and heads ... I have a White Family Rotary machine head that has not been 'adopted' yet... but am optimistic that someone local will 'catch the bug' and want to continue what Rick and I enjoyed doing with these machines. 

February 25, 2019
I sold the fifth, and last, of the church's vintage sewing machines this month ... the little mint green Singer 285. The machine sold for $60.00, and the women of the church offered the cash back to me for my sales service.  While I appreciate their kindness, I cannot keep the money as I sold it for fundraising, and so I will put it into the Rick Palardy Scholarship Fund to help young graduates seeking careers in the manual trades, with the prayer that one day some of them will take on the cause of vintage sewing machine restorations.
With the loss of my husband Rick, my skills in refurbishing vintage machines are limited, and I will no longer be accessing treadles and hand cranks. I'll continue helping quilters learn to maintain their own Featherweights, with the help of David McCallum's wonderful manual, FEATHERWEIGHT 221 AND I. 

November 17, 2018
It was my pleasure to sell another vintage Featherweight 221 for the UU Church in Newburyport, MA.  This is the fourth of their vintage machines I've been able to find a buyer for, and I still have one left.  Last year members of the fund raising group of this church were delighted to receive the proceeds of machines, which they used to help the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Here's a photo of the sold Featherweight, and of their remaining Singer Model 285, for which I am asking $60.00. Local pickup only, at Quilters' Quarters in Georgetown, MA

1957 Featherweight 221, sold for $300.

1965 Singer model 285, new foot pedal wiring,
original manual, bobbin case,
weighs 30 pounds, sturdy original case.
Presently for sale, asking $60.00
Local pickup at Quilters' Quarters,

in Georgetown, Massachusetts. 

January 8, 2018
Ten months have passed since my last entry here at this page, and much has transpired in that time.  My collection of machines is gradually lessening in number. I am hunt-and-peck typing with one hand, so this is brief. FW prices soared this past year and are now slipping back a bit. I've donated 2 Singers in cabinets to our local schools to be used in their new "Maker Spaces." Three more now live at the Senior Center  where I teach quilting twice a month. And I've given away a few others... more later.

March 4th, 2017
Two more machines will be leaving the shop to go with their new owners ... the White Model 77 has been purchased by a family interested in using it for heavy duty sewing, and one of the remaining Singer Treadle Model 66 with Red Eye decals in a five drawer cabinet will be going to a quilter who actually brought the White Model 77 to me last year! Happy transitions for both machines - they will be in use again!

March 3, 2017
Most of you have heard by now that my wonderful husband, Rick, passed away unexpectedly on Christmas morning. We had planned on closing the shop for January and February's cold weather, and I did that, and am just re-opening the shop now, this week. I have many new bolts of fabric that arrived just before Christmas, and am beginning to look for places to store them. 

I have decided to downsize my sewing machine collection; to that end, I'll be posting here which machines are available for sale and when they might be ready for pickup. Some will be in very good condition, and others will be sold in the condition in which they came to me, as I am without my other half ... my better half in so many ways. He had begun to make beautiful new bases for some of the portables, and was going to fix some weak spots in the treadle cabinets, but that work will now not take place.

Today I sold a 1950 Centennial Featherweight, with some extra additions I'd purchased from April and Henry Carmon ... a FW walking foot, some new bobbins, a grip 'n snip thread cutter, a pen that easily releases one single drop of oil into those small holes, and a magnetic seam guide. 

I have another Centennial Featherweight that will be sold to the next customer to ask ... and I have a good supply of the "Featherweight 221 and I" maintenance manual at a very good price. 

I also gave away the mint green "international" 1960's Singer (found on a city sidewalk one rainy day) to a fellow quilter who has a similar machine with missing parts ... hoping that a happy blend of these two will be brought back to life again by its new owner. I have some other heavy, all metal gear Singers from the sixties and seventies ... I'd be happy to re-home them with quilters as they are powerful machines and their motors look pretty good.

Another sewing machine enthusiast has called about the White model 77 and will stop in tomorrow to take a look at it. And I'll be donating a few to the new Georgetown Senior Citizen's Center, now housed at Perley School nearby the shop.

 If you have been thinking about getting into collecting some of what you see on this page, like the Model 66 Treadles with beautiful Red Eye decals, or the vibrating shuttle treadles with other Singer decals, in seven or five drawer cabinets, let me know via email or telephone, or stop by the shop and have a look at what I have on hand. I won't be collecting any additional machines, so when these are gone, this part of our adventure will come to an end. 

November 30, 2016
Yogi Berra would say, "It's like deja-vu all over again!" Two more machines arrived at our shop today, brought by a quilter from her own and her mother's house.  I think of it as 'fostering' them until we can find each of them a new 'forever home.' 

One is a White 77, like the one we acquired on Facebook for a friend who was looking for that model - and like the first 77, this second will need its wiring replaced. It's in a beautiful dark wood cabinet and has the desirable knee lever for power. This model has a reputation of a 'work horse,' and will sew through many layers of fabric. It's a crafters dream come true.

And the second is a two tone mint green Singer identical to my very first sewing machine, circa 1971.  It is in great condition, as it was recently serviced and extra feet and bobbins were bought for it. Unlike mine, which came in a plastic carry-case for portability, this one can stand on its own feet on a table top, but comes hinged in a lovely maple cabinet. Interestingly, the machine itself is stamped Made in Italy, and the electric motor reads Made in France. I haven't found the serial number yet. The owner has many sewing machines, isn't using  this machine, and wants to clear space for those she does use.

I asked her what she wanted for these, and she said whatever is offered is fine. I'll post them on the local yardsale page at Facebook first, as I've had good luck there in the recent past, both buying and re-homing.

My camera is 'among the missing' today, so I can't post pics of these new ones. But you'll find nearly the same images back farther on this page. Its deja-vu!

November 19, 2016

Well, those two months flew by ~ we've been busy in the shop ... our first shop hop / adventure brought about two hundred customers to Quilters' Quarters at the end of September; then we had the driveway re-paved, and have re-homed two more sewing machines!

The beautiful 1916 model 66 with Red Eye Decals was taken with us to the Hammersmith Guild's Quilt Show in Saugus, and I used it during those two days to make some Halloween Trick or Treat bags. Many quilters stopped at our table to admire her and reminisce about their own older machines and first sewing experiences. One young woman who is just beginning to quilt fell in love with the machine, and we spent a while talking about how easy a hand crank is to use and to maintain ... the long and short of it is that I felt it really belonged with her. She came to the shop a few days later, and I sent her home with it, wishing them both a happily ever after together. It had been gifted to me, and I felt comfortable gifting it to her.

Another red eye, the 1917 one we traveled out to the Berkshire Mountains to pick up a year or so ago, has also gone to its new home. My newest sewing student, Julie, was turning 11 and her aunt wanted to buy her a sewing machine. Julie's mother knew Julie would love a hand crank or treadle, and talked with me. I looked over the collection and decided that the one in the table with the single drawer would be just right for Julie. We sent her off with her mom's friend who kindly delivered it to Julie for us. Julie came back for her lesson today, and we spent the entire hour at a machine that is a twin to the one we sent to Julie. She learned how to remove the hand crank when she wants to treadle, and how to re-attach it and remove the belt when she wants to crank. Then we loaded a bobbin, learned how to place it in the case, how to thread the machine, how to clear out a thread nest that I caused by forgetting to stop the needle from moving while the bobbin loaded (and that involved a screw driver and some heavy tugging on snarled thread)... I showed her how to tip the machine back to clear anything that might be caught on its underside ... and then taught her how to use her right hand to guide the wheel counter clockwise before she started the treadle. She soon learned that if the wheel started to go clockwise, the thread immediately caught in the hook and snapped. She went home with a list of "needs" (large screwdriver, medium screwdriver, sewing machine oil ~ which I had in the shop and gave to her~  and tweezers!) With all that, she had time to make a teeny tiny doll pillow from a scrap of material! And after treadling to make it, she decided that she likes treadling better than hand cranking.

I did also manage to acquire a 1935 Featherweight during those two months ... from a fellow enthusiast on Facebook. I haven't named her yet, but am so impressed that one so old can run so beautifully. She comes with the original foot pedal that has steel parts (as Bakelite wasn't used that early!)She even came with a bed protector made of vintage fabrics.

And, during those same two months, I was able to sell, for a friend, her 1955 Featherweight for a good price by advertising it on Facebook's local yard sale page ... someone only a block or two away from the shop bought it! And the seller gave me a relatively new machine for my efforts! I'll figure out how to use and then place that one, in time.

Next Wednesday, another quilter will be bringing me another 'old machine' that her mother no longer wants ... I forget what she said it was, so it will be a surprise when it arrives ... I love surprises!

September 19 2016
Well, the three musketeers (see August 28 2016 entry) will have their first separation: 100 year old Porthos has given his comfy treadle table to his older friend, 101 year old Aramis, and has been fitted himself with a new handcrank. He will be the first to leave our shop as a Grand Prize. The Humble Beginnings Adventure, our first ever shop-hop, takes place at the end of this month, and we have shined him up and made him beautifully attractive to those who value such machines.

In his new white-oak, double storage,
larger sewing surface base made by Rick Palardy,
Porthos is ready to crank!
September 7 2016
 And we've had another happy ending... an antique sewing machine enthusiast posted several machines on Facebook for sale, as she and her husband were packing up their home and moving out west. One of the machines was a White Model 77, and I remembered that our young friend was looking for exactly that machine. I made an offer on the machine, and it was not only accepted - it was delivered by the owner to our shop! No hazardous shipping for this machine and its cabinet! 

I contacted our friend and let her know that it arrived, and she came the very next day, tried it out, and loved it. Rick has replaced the wiring in it (as it is working but quite worn ... see photo below.) And the machine has gone home with his new owner ... and she has named him Barry White.)

August 28, 2016
Our friend Tom came through for us again! He called this morning from his Sunday spot at the flea market to say that another seller there had three vintage machines for sale, and was willing to let them go as a bundle for a VERY reasonable price. Needless to say, I finished waking up, at a quick breakfast and we were off. It's amazing how motivation can help me return to an alert state!

Take a look at what we found when we arrived: Two Singer Red Eyes (1910 and 1918) and a National Rotary with electric motor and light ... and its absolutely beautiful oak barrel case. We will swap out the 1918 from its five drawer cabinet as it does have a motor boss and so can accept a repro-hand crank; the 1910 is older than those machines with the embossment, so that will go into the treadle cabinet. 

And the National? It's the first one we've had, but I did find a manual online for sale ... I've ordered it as we'll need it to know how to thread the machine, and how to work with its bobbin assembly (it actually looks like a Featherweight bobbin assembly, but we'll see what the manual says.)

Here they are: I may have to name them for the three musketters! They will all clean up nicely...

Athos, Porthos and Aramis?
Click the image to see them in full.

May 7 2016

Today I gave away a 1956 Model 66 Singer, with electric motor and light. Rick and I had picked it up at a thrift store in Salem, MA a month or so ago, for a small price ~ once again our friends Lynne and Tom had seen her and let us know that she was there in need of TLC.  I hadn't begun to work on her yet, and when yesterday, I saw on Facebook that a young woman who had returned to college and had little discretionary funding to pursue this hobby was describing another machine a friend had given to her but said she was still looking for a Singer, I knew that this Model 66 would give her a good chance to learn how to restore a Singer, and so invited her to come and pick it up for free. She was very happy to have it, and I've made yet another friend in this community of collectors!

And, while Andria was there, in came another friend who had found the exact same model 66, but dated 1935 and showing its age ... covered with dust and dirt, Donna wants to convert hers to a hand crank, and we'll be glad to help her learn to do just that! Stay tuned for before pics.

April 17, 2016
Our friends Lynne and Tom brought another vintage machine to us tonight. This one is a 1936 Model 99 with Crinkle Finish.  1939 was the year of the San Francisco expo, so I went back out to check the badge to see if it was one of those machines, but it is not. Never the less, only 3,000 were made in her batch, (and no, that is not in the large batch range ... many were made in batches of 10,000 to 50,000!)

Her case has seen some heavy duty, and bears the scars in the handle attachments. She, as so many like her, has lost her throat plate ... story is, so few people realized that the 66 and 99 throat plates have to be re-serted right to left, though they open from the left outward, and so plates were loose and left in drawers until finally lost. But it can be replaced by our friend Cindy Peters.

I don't know whether we'll pull the electrical motor off this one or not - a 99 that becomes a hand crank is a sweet little 3/4 machine, but it does lose its bobbin-winder, as that is attached to its motor mount. But if the motor is shot, we'll do it.

April 12. 2016

I happily received another 1950 Centennial Featherweight today; carefully and sturdily packaged, it travelled by UPS all the way from Nebraska to Massahusetts. Many thanks to the seller, Carol, who knows how to package these treasures! It came with a full bo of attachments and, bestill my heart, the aqua case for the white Featherweight I had bought last year without a case ... so happy to have one now!  It took only six days to arrive! 

April 6, 2016

Oh, I'm so excited.  Remember that white Featherweight that I bought here in town? It didn't have its case, or attachments. But today the friend who sold her to me told me of another Facebook post that is selling a black Centennial FW with a green/white case! So I got in touch with her, made arrangements, and sealed the deal! She'll be arriving here in a few weeks or so... and when she does, I'll post pics!

March 28, 2016
We've spent some nostalgic time in the sixties this month ... helping others with machines from that decade, and finding another one for our rescue efforts. This one is a 1965 Singer model 337, made in Great Britain (according to her serial number) and left on a sidewalk in Brookline, MA wearing a message on her case that read "FREE - PARTS" She is missing several of her own, and though her case was securely closed when we found her, it must have been open at some point for there was rainwater in several interior "reservoirs." We couldn't just leave her there in the rain, and so brought her home with us.

Her color is even throughout ... she is missing her external wiring (food pedal and power cord) and the wire to her light socket has been cut at the bulb end. But her upper tension and bobbin assembly are each complete ane move freely. 

The needle bar seems to be non-responsive to the hand wheel, probably because the stop motion screw and small bobbin winding clutch wheel and washer have been removed, as have the throat plates. The presser foot lever is there but doesn't connect to anything. The needle bar still has its collar and screw.
There is a lot to be done to bring her back to her beautiful, powerful self! In time, we will learn what it is we are meant to do with and for her. 

'Til then, she's safe and admired here. I wonder when she emigrated from Great Britain to come here to Massachusetts? Or who brought her? The parts she has, still intact, indicate that she was once well cared for, and sheltered. No doubt she was abandoned after her parts were removed by someone knowledgeable. It's hard to understand, given her beauty and powerful strength ... she's a heavy duty domestic zig zag machine ... a Might Girl ahead of her time, now left behind, but happily found by one who can appreciate her quality...

February 15, 2016
Well, she did clean up nicely, and she will be one of the grand prizes in our Humble Beginnings Adventure 2016, a shop  hop that five other shops and Quilters' Quarters will be hosting this fall. I oiled her inside and out, removed layers of dust, and was rewarded with a reveal of her beautiful colored decals. I added a hand crank as she had no treadle table, and Rick made her a wonderful base of white oak, with two compartments fore and aft, which increase her sewing surface as well. Can't wait 'til customers return to the shop this spring and see her all spruced up!
Join our Humble Beginnings Adventure in the fall of 2016;
visit all six shops, and you might win this special prize!

January 26, 2016
This past weekend friends of ours were out and about and found another vintage machine at a Salvation Army store in New Hampshire. They snapped photos and sent them to us, and off we went to see if we could get it. It is another Red Eye model 66, and the serial number dates her as a 1915. We'll be removing the dust and Rick will be building her a base  She has the motor boss and will take a repro-hand crank...  If she's as beautiful as I think she can be, I'm sure we will find a good home for her! 

January 7, 2016

I'm happy to add another machine to the collection: a 1959 Singer model 404, which I think might be the model my mother had, and so I'm naming this one Kitty. I found her on the Vintage Sewing Machine Facebook page last week, and she is now on my table and will be put into a sewing table later this week  She comes to me running very well; I've just ordered a darning / embroidery foot from eBay for her, and will try some free motion quilting when she is all set up. She is all metal, except for her plastic spool pin, which unfortunately snapped off near its base; she weighs about 25 pounds,  less than the older machines because she, like the Featherweight, is aluminum. But she is twice the size and weight of a Feathereight.

1959 model 404, "Kitty"
Kitty in her new-old table.
Update: Rick modified a 1920's sewing table to hold "Kitty" by cutting two notches in the left side of the opening, to allow for the supports to slide in. Now, of course, I'm in the process of clearing unloved clutter from the "Lady's Parlor" which is now my main sewing room. I'll post photos when I'm done, and not before!

 December 2015
People who know me know I love happy endings, and we have made one happen this month! One of my young students had asked her mother and father to get her a hand crank machine like those I have in the shop, and they began looking. When a five drawer treadle cabinet found me through a friend, I put it together with the Japanese Clone my friend had brought to me in the spring  (scroll down to read her story in chapter 16), onto which I had placed a hand crank. As the clone doesn't fit well down into the cabinet, I made her a vintage-prints fabric dust cover. The young sewist is now the proud owner of a beautiful handcrank! Here's a photo of her surprise gift:

Chapter 22   September 8, 2015

Today, another one found its way to me. This one is another model 128 with a vibrating shuttle, and its manufacture began in early 1942. It has a "crinkle" finish telling me that it was intended for heavy duty use. But soon after, the Singer Factories put a hold on sewing machine manufacturing and switched instead to meeting the needs of the military in WWII. After the war ended, Singer again turned its machinery toward manufacturing and marketing thousands of machines.

One knowledgeable collector told me that the 128 was, by then, a bit outdated, and perhaps stalled on the production lines as Singer was busy promoting some of their newer,lighter stronger machines. But it was eventually finished; in fact, it earned a centennial badge for being released for sale in 1950-1951, and bears the blue-bordered emblem with  pride. In an industry that turned out thousands of machines each month, this machine has a ten year story.  I like stories of patience and perseverance ... I like the history of this machine. She comes with a motor, light, attachments and a strong barrel-top case. If her wires are weak, I will convert her to a hand crank and treasure her unique story as another 'MADE IN U.S.A" mechanical wonder.

Chapter 21   August 25, 2015

Yesterday, I watched a video and learned to sew a dust cover for my vintage and antique sewing machines.  The half-hour video was very clear, and I was able to make the cover in just a few hours time. While my corners are a bit 'wonky', I'm sure the next one will be better! Debbie Shore is the featured quilter in the video. The vintage machine fabric and Bosal sew-in foam are both in stock at Quilters' Quarters, and at the webstore. Here's my first!

Chapter 20   August 9, 2015
I'm happy to say that there is another self-threading needle being worked on, with a spiral entry for the thread which may hold it more consistently. The inventor is going to send me a sample to try on the vintage machines and let her know which ones are working with it. I'm looking forward to that!

Grip 'n Snip Thread Cutter
available at WAWAK.COM
and at our webstore.
I have also been introduced, via Facebook Friends, to a company that sells "Grip 'n Snip Thread Cutters," and have ordered several for my vintage machines. I'd made a video showing how it works, and how we'd struggled to get it to attach firmly to the presser foot screw.

Rick then tightened the shape of the arc behind the screw's placement and we moved it up to the face plate screw with success. Click HERE for  a video showing how that worked at Quilters' Quarters Facebook page ... Sorry that Blogger won't accrept it here as it is a bit too big for their parameters. :

Chapter 19   July 11, 2015

I have been introduced to a wonderful sewing machine needle that I did not know existed! Schmetz makes a self-threading  needle for hand sewing, but they also sell self-threading universals for machines ... and they work beautifully on my handcrank 66's and 99! I have them in the shop now, in size 12 and 14 packs. My little 8 year old students found them incredibly easy to use, also! I'll get them up on my webstore soon, so that all of you who use your vintage and antique machines can enjoy the ease of self threading on these old beauties!  They are no more expensive than a regular five-pack of Schmetz needles. Celebrate!

UPDATE: Because vintage treadle and hand crank machines have needles that sit sideways in the needlebar, the access slot for these needles is on the front of the needle (to the right side of the eye itself.) I've found that the needle in such a machine will unthread itself as easily as it will thread itself.  Of course, it's quite easy then to re-thread it~

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Chapter 19  July 6, 2015

I gifted this bag to my artist friend,
Lynn, whose paintings of buoys
in Friendship, Maine raised my
awareness of this colorful art.

I'm now able to make completed projects on my special antique sewing machines! This past week I worked with the 1911 Red Eye Singer model 66 that I'd converted to a hand crank.  This 104 year old machine was able to produce a summer tote ... very even stitches put the pattern pieces together, and quilted the body and pocket of the bag, and strengthened the fabric scraps that became the sturdy cotton straps. I'm so proud of her!  And when I ran out of bobbin thread with only eight inches remaining to quilt on the straps, I simply moved over to my 1925 Singer 99, also now a converted hand crank, and finished it up!

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Chapter 18  June 8, 2015

My oldest sister, Kay, passed away three years ago. Her husband Kip died this past month. He asked me a few months ago if I'd want her sewing machine, and I said I'd be happy to take it and tune it up and keep it safe in case one of their granddaughters or great granddaughters would want it one day. 

 And so Rick and I took a ride down to the house Sunday and brought this beautiful pink and white machine home with us. It is in a desk-styled cabinet that has one large bottom drawer and facades of where the other desk drawers would be, if there were not a machine tucked inside. The machine was bought when she was a young mother of two boys, circa 1963.

It hasn't been used for many years, as my sister struggled with illnesses. But the parts are all there; everything is in good condition. I believe, with an oiling and lube, she will be running well again. And I will finish the summer blouse that my sister had started many years ago. The pattern and material are carefully stored in the drawer, waiting patiently. 

 ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Chapter 17  May 30, 2015
another happy local adoption made possible
by a persuasive friend

It's our anniversary today - 45 years! Rick and I went to a yard sale and picked up a 1908 Singer Treadle model 27 that has been with one family since its beginning. It belonged to the owner's mother when it was new. Was handed down to the daughter, moved with the family when they left the farm. I met the original owner's daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter today, and they are happy it is going to a good home where it will be appreciated.' I'm looking forward to bringing this one back to use in our shop, with students who want to experience sewing on these antique machines. This is my second model 27, and her name is DoraRosetta, again named for her daughter/mother owners. Her treadle cabinet has 7 drawers and needs a bit of woodworking repair on the back, which Rick will take on, and we've lifted her out of it to begin the cleaning and pampering. 

Here's her before picture: It will be a few weeks before we get to her cabinet, but we'll begin with her vibrating shuttle bobbin. Her decals are "Tiffany/Gingerbread" according to the table on Ismacs. My other Singer Model 27, Mary, has Sphinx/Memphis decals, and is four years older.
Dora, her owner, tells me that she made many quilts and a great deal of clothing and other items on this machine, and the wear on her decals is a testament to all of that family work. She has always been here in Massachusetts. It's nice to know a machine's full history!

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Chapter 16  May 29, 2015
abandoned, found, and brought in for care

she comes with a name but no history

Another lost machine found its way to me this week, believe it or not. My friend Mary found it in the laundry room of her complex. After a few days she realized it had been abandoned there, and she knew where it would be welcome. 

The upper tension placement suggests that she may
be a Singer model 15 clone.
It's the first Japanese Clone that has found its way to me; commissioned by Sears, it was probably manufactured in the nineteen-fifties. The motor runs, and the wheel turns smoothly. She has no needle and only one very rusty bobbin in her case.  She proudly wears the name "Challenge," and finding her history will be the first challenge. 

People at the Vintage Sewing Machine page of Facebook recognized the upper tension's placement on the face plate as the mark of a Singer model 15, so I went online to a link that one of the page members provided and printed out a user manual for it, titled Generic class 15 Sewing Machine.  That will do for me! 

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Chapter 15  May 17, 2015

Mode 99 'Before"
We have continued working on the hand cranks this past week, and now all three of them are in the shop and ready for use.  We had to do a lot of work on the Singer model 99's bobbin assembly: take a look at what we found when we slid open that nice shiny slide plate:  one of the members of the Vintage Sewing Machine Facebook page commented that it didn't look like this would ever work again.  But with the help of my husband and a friend, and the months of advice I've read at that page, we were able to de-rust it, clean out decades of lint, rebuild it and retime it, and it is now working very well! 
Model 99 'After'

You can see her new red felt in place, now soaked with oil. The hand crank worked when we installed it last week, but it works so much more smoothly now! It took a lot of hours of careful cleaning. We soaked the parts in  Evaporust, used PB Blaster to free up the long-rusted screws, took everything out, including the feed dogs and "THAT SCREW WHICH MUST NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, BE REMOVED" (according to the manual, removing it would mess up the timing; in truth, we had to remove and/or clean everything involved in the timing,..) So yes, we then had to find the Adjuster's Manual, which one of our Facebook friends handily provided a link  for finding... and we re-set the timing and she is running beautifully!

Model 66 "before"
Next, we had to clean up the beautiful Red Eye model 66 that had been removed from her treadle table and electrified with a motor but no portable base. She was very well polished and came with a full box of attachments and a button holer to boot! When we removed her face plate, though, she clearly hadn't been exposed in such a way before. There was a lot of accumulated dust in crevices, and that dust, though not freezing her to immobility, was hampering her wheel and needle bar motion.  We didn't have to remove all of her parts; we just cleaned out the dust, and added quantities of oil  to all of her joints (and these old machines have many joints that need to be oiled frequently to keep them in good working order. )  
Model 66 in her new base

Mind you, this machine is over a hundred years of age, and all of her parts are still there and moving! She is dated 1911. It was cumbersome to work with her without a case to let her rest in between sessions, but by the time I had finished the oiling, Rick had made her a new pine base - simple and sturdy. 

The model 99 and the model 66 are very similar machines, differing in length but otherwise with  interchangeable parts, which makes restoring them a reasonable task. I had ordered a dozen new bobbins for each of the machines ... they take the same size bobbin. But we did find one hindrance in trying to use the bobbin winder on the Red Eye 66 ... the new bobbins had a slightly domed shape, which made it harder to insert on the 66's bobbin winder ... but I found, by holding the loose end of the thread in my teeth, pushing the bobbin winder against the wheel with one hand, and cranking with the other, I could "jump start" the winding process, and it would click into place on the second or third turn of the wheel - I had a '63 VW Beetle once that needed a jump start, too! 

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Chapter 14 May1, 2015

Red Eye Model 66

The hand cranks arrived in the mail last week, and today Rick and I converted three of the electrified sewing machines to 'people-powered' machines. Amazingly, the hand cranks, which are imported replicas of the original Singer models, fit three very different vintage machines in my collection. First, we took the motor and electric light attachment off the Red Eye model 66 that will one day have a new cabinet to hold it. We attached the hand crank as seen in a YouTube video, and within about 15 minutes that one was finished and working well.  I'll have to order a replacement for the back cover that we removed with the motor. The original part would have been a circular medallion with lovely scroll work.

Model 99
Next, we worked on the model 99 that came with a damaged case due to shipping issues, electric wires that shorted out the first time I tried the plug, and bobbins that had rusted with yards of thread on them ... I'll order some new ones from Cindy Peters. Before we could put the hand crank on, though, we had to remove the wheel and replace it with a new spoked wheel. There is a lot of rust in the bobbin case and race, and I'll have to read up on how to take that assembly apart for soaking in Evaporust. 

Model 128
And then, we had to decide which machine to treat with the third hand crank: the 128 presently on display in the shop, or the Stratford that has a lovely cabinet but is currently holding a spinner of cards of our artist friend, Lynne. We decided to do the 128  and succeeded without any difficulty. But this machine is lacking a back slide plate over the shuttle bobbin, and I'll order that from Cindy Peters. 

A fourth hand crank will be ordered tomorrow if we open the Stratford machine and find that it does have the required motor "boss" under its wheel. If it doesn't have that raised area molded into its body, we won't be able to attach the hand crank. It might be able to fit it into an abandoned treadle table in that case.

Each of these machines needs more work before it will be functional and available for use in the shop by customers who want to try their hand at 'people-powered' hand crank and/or  treadle machines. Each is a work in progress. And as the work progresses, I'm gaining the knowledge and confidence that I'll be able to share with others toward the goal of restoring more of those family treasureswaiting to be rediscovered and appreciated in our town.

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Chapter 13
April 17, 2015

Another Gift: 1951 Singer 221K, Scotland
Only two days later, another amazing arrival ... a friend wanted me to look at a machine she had had for years, and when she brought it into the shop, I saw that it was a Featherweight 221K! I opened the case, untwisted the electrical wires gently from their long-held position around the foot pedal, found the wires supple and the electrical plug intact, and so plugged it in. I turned the wheel manually at first, and it moved smoothly. I then stepped gently on the peddle and heard a soft hum from the motor. I touched the wheel again the needle began to rise and fall quietly. I complimented her on its beautiful condition and on her care for it. She told me she'd bought it at a Singer store at least four decades earlier. And then, when she said she wanted me to have it, I was stunned. I told her that she ought to see what they are selling for now-a-days on eBay, but she said it didn't matter, she wanted me to have it.  I told her that I will treasure it as I do the others that I have. and thanked her again. As it hadn't been named, I will call her AngeLaura, for the one who brought her to me. 

Beautifully embossed inner lining of 221K case
Soon after, I looked up the serial number and found that this one was badged on December 18, 1951, made in the Kilbowie factory at Clydedale, Scotland. Her case is pristine, and for the first time I noticed the delicate embossing on the black inner fabric lining, which I hadn't seen in other Featherweight cases. 

I would say here that I couldn't believe my luck, but it would be a falsehood to say that. I am blessed in my life, with Rick, with my children and with my sweet, generous friends who continue to inspire my own generosity. 

The old saw "What comes around goes around" is proving so true in this stage of my life.  Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine called to say she and her husband had been out and about and had found a Featherweight for sale, and did I know of anyone looking for one ... I said that a mutual friend of ours had mentioned that she would like to have one but would have to save up for it. Lynne and I agreed then to pool our resources and buy it for her, as a 'very merry unbirthday' gift at our next get together, and we did. Our friend, who does so much for so many others, is now the surprised and proud owner of a 1941 Featherweight - I'm sure in time she will give her a name, too. Another happy story with the help of our angels! Remember: when feathers appear, angels are near!

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Chapter 12
April 14, 2015

Very unexpectedly, a friend of ours contacted us to ask if we'd have room for another vintage sewing machine! We met her at the woodworking group meeting that my husband occasionally attends, and she gifted us with a 1911 Singer model 66 Red Eye!

This is our fourth such machine; she has no treadle table ~ this beautiful machine was well cared for and  was electrified later in her life, The wires for the motor and the attached light fixture are very old and worn now. I think she will be another candidate for a handcrank, and thankfully, she does have a "boss" that will accomodate a handcrank attachment. I'll contact Cindy Peters and add aother to my standing order. I've heard that the dock workers' strike in California has been settled, and the handcranks may be received here soon.

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Chapter 11 April 2, 2015
(Little did I know that the collection would continue to grow)

Another Singer Treadle Red Eye Model 66 has found its way to me ... this is my sister's mother-in-law's machine.

 Badged on May 16, 1922, before Veronica was born, her mother Carmela's machine was one of 50,000 manufactured in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After her mother, Veronica continued to use it until recently. It will join its sister-machines in my quilt shop eventually, where the treadles will be available to visiting quilters for 'sit 'n stitch' sessions on these vintage beauties.

 I will treasure each of them. And her name, of course, will be Carmela Veronica, for her mother/daughter owners. Thank you, Veronica heart emoticon And thank you, Betty Crawford and Angela Marie Hogan

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Chapter 10  February 10, 2015

I think my vintage and antique sewing machine collection will remain stable for the next few months. I have a few "music  box" and other 'kitschy' sewing machines to share here, just to bring the collection up to date. 

I didn't know that my student, Fiona, was bringing a vintage sewing machine to our last lesson ... I had a sewing machine music box tucked away for her, and she loved it.  It plays that classic music box song, the name of which I cannot remember, but I'm sure you've heard it.  As it plays (after opening the center drawer) the spool of thread turns, as does the wheel, and the needle rises and falls as the treadle moves forward and back in a rocking motion. It's very sweet ... all plastic, and made in China, purchased on eBay, but she loves it anyway.

I also have a ceramic music box that is a curious combination of an old vintage sewing machine and a long-playing turntable. It is covered with sweet little bears as small as mice; animals that resemble Cinderella's little helpers. It plays a Christmas melody, oddly enough - there isn't another hint of the holiday in the piece. And the turntable spins carrying the little critters around and around. I love Christmas music, and so I love the music box.

There is another little novelty machine that is probably made of cast aluminum but painted to appear as old brass. It is a functioning pencil sharpener! As you hand crank the wheel, the sharpener blades within rotate. It's the perfect gift for a retired teacher who, for her happily ever after years, turned into a quilt shop owner and Vintage Sewing Machine collector!

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Chapter 9  February 6, 2015

This toy sewing machine was found on eBay a month or so ago. I couldn't resist making an offer, as the shipping seemed reasonably priced. 

I saw others like it, in similar condition, for as much as $85.00 Imagine my surprise when I won the auction at $7.50! The shipping was about the same price, and so for far less than $20.00, I had my second toy sewing machine. This one's manufacturer label says Gateway, and was manufactured in Chicago, Illinois, between 1946 and 1952, and is as sturdy as those metal construction trucks of the same age.

Like the Singer model 20, this one does a chain stitch and does not have or need a bobbin assembly. It's a little rough right now, as I haven't begun cleaning it, and clearly it will move more easily once oil is applied. But the paint is in pretty good condition. The shiny metal parts like the foot and needle clamp (and the needle itself) are very rusted, though they do move. I'll try some rust remover on those parts once the cleaning begins. The painted cast aluminum is sturdy, well-shaped and has it's original colors. 

The hand crank is intact and the mechanism itself doesn't seem to be missing any parts, so this will be a rewarding restoration.

Why did I buy this second toy machine? My grandchildren are grown and in or heading into college now.  But I have friends who have little ones in their family, and they stop into the shop now and then. I'd like to run workshops on cleaning, maintaining, and rehabilitating Vintage and Antique Sewing Machines in time, and the toys will be fun to share with people who have an interest in 'the olden days.'  

In the next chapter I'll add a few more small sewing machines that really are more wind-up music box toys than actual working machines. And I imagine in time, there will be more actual machines to add to this story.  

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Chapter 8 February 4, 2015
"... when you're young at heart..."

I have only a few small machines left to describe for you - small in number, and small in size. I'll start with the one my 7 year old student, Fiona, gave to me at our last meeting when she finished her quilt last fall.

This little machine is a Singer model 20. These machines were made for young stitchers learning to sew. Some say that they were also used by college students in the early decades of the twentieth century, as this 'toy' machine was as real as any Singer; it used a chain stitch, requiring no bobbin. It was easy to carry, lightweight, and sufficient for most basic sewing repairs.

The model 20 was made from  1910 until 1975. It is called the model 20 because it was the twentieth original machine designed by Isaac Singer. The early machines had more visible workings; from 1950 on, the workings were enclosed in the body of the machine, giving it a more 'chunky' look to it. A good deal of information about this sweet little machine can be found at Alex Askaroff's website, "Home of the Sewalot Site." Askaroff is also the author of the recently published biography, Isaac Singer, The First Capitalist, which can be purchased at this link in either paperback or kindle version. 

Toy sewing machines are not easy to date specifically, as serial records that were kept are not considered as accurate as those of the full size machines. There are some parts of my gifted machine that will need some straightening and polishing. It would originally have had a clamp to hold it steady on a table's edge, but this one's clamp has been lost to time. I'll keep an eye out for a replacement. I'm looking forward to getting it in good working order.

There's a similar page at Ismacs that will show you some images of model 20s: here's the Ismacs link. 

I'll tell you, in the next chapter,  a bit about another toy machine I found on eBay.

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Chapter 7 January 31, 2015

She probably wore a 'pinner' around her neck,
wearing out the decal of "Singer" A true
collector might want to replace the lost lettering.
 I had  found (on either eBay or Craig's List -I forget which) another 'local' machine. It was a Red-Eye Singer, dated 1927. When I won the auction, I emailed and asked the owner for an address. The following day we set out, and drove for two hours or so to the western mountains of Massachusetts, trusting our OnStar to locate the seller's street address in the Berkshires. OnStar was close, but had the wrong side of the foothill. Eventually, after troubling an elderly man by pulling into his driveway (having seen a cow barn and assuming we were in the right space,) we were kindly directed a few miles back to the fork and over to the other side of the hill.

The other side was steeper; we nearly missed the driveway but I happened to be looking to the right at the right time and saw a young woman waving to our slowly moving vehicle. No doubt having few visitors on that road, she knew we were looking for her, and her machine. We pulled into what must have been a forty-five degree rise covered in gravel and small rock.  We saw her husband then motioning us to pull over to the right, where they had a small barn. I looked around to see where the house was, and finally asked if they lived here.  The wife told me that the house was further up the hill, but we couldn't see it for the forest of trees. They found it easier to keep their sellings down closer to the main road. They had a four wheel drive but most of their customers were from away. So she and her husband had built this barn to hold things they bought and sold.

The Red Eye Treadle with coffin cover
and one drawer bought soon after.
Inside the barn was a small collection of antique 'everythings' - one of these and one of those - and there sat the Red Eye Singer in a table with no drawers. She was covered with a 'coffin-top' cover. I was so excited to life the cover off the machine and admire her well-known decals. That her table and irons had no drawers did not concern me, as I knew those could be found on eBay ... it seems that some sellers parceled such things out in an effort to make more money on the separate parts than on on intact item. Within a few days I would have one drawer purchased at a reasonable price, and one would be enough for me.

Just as I began looking more closely at the machine and talking with the young woman about it, we all heard a grinding noise outside; Rick and the young man went out of the barn and found our vehicle slow sliding over the gravel and back toward the road. Rick was able to get in and tried the brake, but the weight of our vehicle was literally sliding, not rolling, and so the brake made no difference. He angle the wheels to cut back toward the side and the movement stopped. He made a three point turn across the track, and then they loaded the machine carefully into the back. We said our thank you's and goodbyes, set off back down the hill, frontwards. 

When we got home and unloaded the treadle, I tried her out and found her in fair working order.  I knew that with a good oiling and dusting, she would soon be running well. I had my third Treadle, and couldn't wait to read more about her. That fall, we participated in our town's "Olden Days" celebration, and I had visitors in the shop trying out the treadle.

A young boy trying out the treadle and
intrigued by the experience.
  A few  months later, another couple of friends, Paul and Mary, asked me if I had room in the shop for another treadle machine - they had had it for years, and were now clearing out some things rarely used. I said I would be happy to host another treadle in the shop. Much to my surprise, they arrived with a Singer Red Eye, model 66, in a beautiful, seven-drawer carved cabinet -  a wonderful machine.  We used the serial number and dated it to WWI years. I began to imagine who might have sewn on this treasure, and what might her thoughts have been at the time. 

She will be named Emma Maria

Paul and Mary's daughter and fiance had just opened an ice cream parlor just a few miles away, and Rick and I frequented it often. On our next visit, I asked Maria and her sister, Emma, to come over to our table, and asked them about their thoughts of the machine being in the shop. They both, being in the twenties, had no present interest in it. I suggested that they get in touch with me if ever they changed their mind and wanted it again, and they promised that they would. And I promised it would still be there for them.

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Chapter 6  January 29, 2015

You can see that friendships are important in acquiring vintage and antique sewing machines. I'm going to talk about two more friends in this chapter who have contributed to the collection at Quilters' Quarter.

the back of the
 re-TIE-rement quilt
the front, month
by month
Last spring, I was working on a few family quilts when Lynne, one of our Quilters' Quarters Massachusetts artists,  asked me if I could use her husband's ties to make a special wall hanging / lap quilt for his retirement. As he was an elementary school principal I knew that the collection of ties would be spectacular - and though I hadn't yet worked with silk or nylon fabrics, I said yes, I would find out how best to stabilize the fabrics. She left the design up to me. 

The ties arrived, and we went through them. It took me a few weeks to separate the fifty or so ties into ten or twelve related piles. I decided that I would do a calendar pattern, making 12" blocks for each month, and reserving the longer center block for some special ties of honor.  You can see pictures of each block by scrolling down to the summer months at the 2014 quilting journal page of this blog. In exchange for the quilt, Lynne gave me one of her Pink Chair paintings!

Shortly after receiving his retirement quilt, Tom began finding gifts for me in his favorite pastime - yard sales and thrift shops. As he traveled around, he would spot things for various friends of his, and he added me to that list. Once, he brought me an antique hem-measuring post - another time he brought me a cute Christmas tree decorated with lights and sewing notions: wooden spools of thread made into a garland, decorative "button-people" and quilted ornaments - the perfect centerpiece for the shop front window for the holiday season.

The front of the cabinet is
a hinged door that
holds a shelf within.
And then Tom brought me a sewing machine - in a cabinet - with a name I had no knowledge of, but with delicate multi-colored decals ... it was a bargain, he said, but I insisted on paying for it. 

For the total of $15.00, I had a three/quarter sized machine. It was not a Singer 99, but it was close in size, though it had a vibrating shuttle rather than a rotary bobbin. More like my 1904 Model 27 treadle.

The "Stratford's" wiring was old, cotton-covered wiring dating from the 1920's, so we estimated that the machine was from that period, too. The motor bears the name Westinghouse. The thrift shop owner had had it for a while, and had just recently moved it outdoors to a storage tent at the back of the shop. Clearly, this was another machine waiting to be found, and brought somewhere where it could be appreciated and cared for. So it is on my list for a hand crank one day, and will be used once again in classes with stitchers (so much better a word than 'sewers') who want the experience of sewing with manual power but machine strength and quality.

A few months later another generous friend of mine showed me a machine that she had traveled to the next state to pick up, seen and purchased through
Craig's List. We thought perhaps it was a Singer 99 with the bentwood case ... heavy as lead and beautifully decorated with decals we hadn't yet identified. She took it home to take it apart and clean it, and research more.

The serial numbers of Singer machines make dating those quite easy in today's internet, and Ismacs also has a catalog of the various decal designs that were original to the machines.  This one's serial number also intrigued me: G032127. It dates to August of 1923, one of 25,000 of that model made that month in Elizabeth, New Jersey. 

When Renee realized I was still looking for a 99, she put her machine back together and brought it over to the shop and said "Here. It's yours. I don't think I need it." As it turns out, it is a Model 128 with laVencedora decals, a vibrating shuttle machine that had been electrified. At first, after placing it the front window of the shop, I thought the needle didn't line up with the hole in the needle plate. But my friends at Facebook's Vintage Sewing Machine Page had a quick solution for me - on their advice, I took the needle out of it's clamp and reinserted it, and all was well. 

I decided then that it, too, could be a hand crank, and I went to Cindy Peter's Stitches in Time to order the parts we would need. When they come in, I'll invite Renee over to learn with me how to transform one of these beauties to a hand crank model. But until then, she makes a fine window display for Quilters' Quarters during this post-holiday season. I think I'll call her Renee.

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Chapter 5 January 28, 2015
"...dreams do come true, it could happen to you..."

I call her Angelina, 1950
As I hinted in Chapter 4, two more Featherweights found me just a month ago, within a week of each other. The first was a Craig's Listing that a Facebook friend posted at the Featherweight page, letting people in our area know that a 1950 Centennial was listed for $200.00, local pickup only. It was in a town just 10 miles away, and so I immediately sent an email to the seller that I would buy it, cash, right away if possible.  When the seller responded, we set a time for the next day, Sunday, to pick it up. Rick went to the bank, cashed a check and we were ready for the next day's treasure trip.  I don't think I slept at all that night. To find a special Centennial edition was one thing - that it was also my birthdate was another thing entirely.  To know that it was stored for years in a church closet, nearly forgotten, was clearly a message to me that my angels were doing their very best to help me acquire this machine.  Whether I needed a second Featherweight was never a question - this was THE Featherweight that I had dared wish for.  As she was a few years younger than my 1946 "Angel" I decided to call her "Angelina", little sister of Angel.
She wears her blue rimmed badge proudly

When I opened her case (a different style case, as changes were made between 1946 and 1950,) I found that there was no tray in the top - instead there was a narrow metal sleeve along the left side. But that disappointment was soon overshadowed by the delightful discoveries within the case itself.  For packed beneath and around the Featherweight was a buttonholer with its own case and user manual, a hemstitcher in its original box with instruction sheet, a full set of feet and attachments (the ruffler, the gatherer, feed dog covers and more.) And when I finally plugged her in (after adding electrical tape to some of the worn areas of her wires) I could not believe my good fortune ... she ran beautifully, and I finally heard that "purr" that I had read about on the Facebook pages ... but why would I be surprised? I truly believe that when feathers appear, angels are near, and my angels had surely found her for me. But they weren't finished yet...

The Littlest Angel, 1964
The next day, an ad popped up on my computer; it was from eBay, and it advertised a white Featherweight being auctioned that week.  Because I had been browsing through the Featherweights on the Vintage Sewing Machine pages of eBay, I was apparently a good customer to advertise such a machine to ... and eBay has collected enough information to be able to target customers in that way. And so I went to look at this machine, thinking that I knew someone who wanted a machine for her granddaughter. It was a white 1964 Featherweight. It had no case, and only its one presser foot and foot pedal, but the good news is that it was listed right here in town~ I could afford to outbid the others because I knew I would not have to add on another $30 for shipping.  When I won the auction, I set up a meeting with the seller at her home, and found that her sister is a friend of mine at our local quilt guild!

She asked me, when we met, why I was looking for a white Featherweight, and asked me if I knew of the differences between them and the original, older black machines. She told me of the shorter extension bed, and I told her that wouldn't matter to me. She pointed out the gold foil Singer Sticker instead of a metal emblem. She asked why I had looked for a white, and then I told her that I hadn't ... that her machine had found me, through my angels. We spoke a bit more, found things we had in common, and agreed to meet again one day. She has a few more machines she is thinking of selling, and I told her of my shop, and that I would be glad to help find local customers for her, so that the machines wouldn't have to endure shipping damages. And I told her I had already named the white Featherweight: I would call him the Littlest Angel, for he was younger than all the other Featherweights I'd seen, and was also that little bit smaller. And he seemed definitely to be a he, as was the original Littlest Angel of old.

Littlest Angel had already had his white motor replaced with a rebuilt black motor, which proved weaker than I had thought. The first day, he ran well, but sounded like his motor was straining a bit. Rick and I carefully oiled him in all the right places, and then added Singer lube to his motor ports.  Rather than improving, his motor seemed then to whimper a bit, and then stopped completely. And to avoid doing any further harm, we decided it was time to visit Richie again. 

Richie looked the white Featherweight over, listened to what we said we had tried, and agreed with Rick that it was likely the bushings that were worn, and he would need a replacement. A new motor would cost more than $100, and that was more than I could agree to. But Richie had a rebuilt motor, black; I told him that we had a Dalmatian with very few black spots and loved him, and could allow a black motor for the white Featherweight. Richie told us that we could take the spent motor home to tinker with. I asked him if we had a 'warranty' on the repair. He smiled and said, and I quote: "Sixty seconds or six feet."  In other words, once we left with the motor we owned it, as it was a rebuilt with no guarantee. 
Pieced on Littlest Angel, and
quilted on Bernina 125.

We decided we would take that chance.  We brought Little Angel home with us, plugged him in, and he ran very well ... straight, even stitches. I got in touch with my friend Betty, told her I had two more Featherweights, and offered to give her the 1946 original one for her granddaughter's lessons. I could not part with either the 1950 Centennial Angelina , nor my Littlest Angel.  She accepted, and I gave her the new 1950 case with her 1946 Featherweight, as I thought the older case was more useful with its tray.  We brought the case, the machine, and the full set of attachments to her that had come with Angel. The set that came with Angelina would be enough for both her and the Littlest Angel. And that week, I made a small quilt with him .

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Chapter 4  January 27, 2015
one I bought and then gave to a friend who had given one to me

With two treadle machines now with us, I began researching how to clean and maintain them ... with an eye toward actually sewing on them, and using their abundant "harp" space for larger  quilts than I had been making on my Bernina.

There is a very helpful group at a site titled Treadle On where advice and encouragement can be found for people endeavoring to restore and restart these old beautiful machines. And there is another group called ISMACS (International Sewing Machine Collectors Society) where dates can be found, manuals can be downloaded, and wonderful stories and tutorials are available.

Most interesting is the fact that Singer and White machines operate opposite each other in direction of the wheel.  For the Singer, you want the wheel to turn counterclockwise to stitch forward; the White wheel turns clockwise to do so.  I still have a lot to learn about the actual sewing with these machines, so will advise you to check with the experts and learn along with me.

But having these two wonderful machines, and having lost two to the vagaries of eBay shipping, have not yet satisfied my curiosity in other antique and vintage machines. So the hunt continued a bit longer.

1946 Featherweight
I named her Angel, because 
"when feathers appear,
angels are  near."
My next effort at eBay purchasing proved successful ~ I saw a 1946 Featherweight posted and the auction was in its last day. I jumped in, and made a bid, and also made a "maximum bid" as high as I dared.  I had watched a few auctions for Singer Featherweights; the typical length of an auction is five to seven days, during which time the price would remain temptingly low. But in the last day of these auctions, serious bidders virtually gather at the post and do their best to win the prize. I joined this group (in the comfort of my home, on my laptop) and we inched the price higher and higher. It hadn't reached my maximum bid yet, and so I went back to real life for a while, then checked in as the deadline was drawing near. I had been outbid! I increased my maximum to top the current high bid and a little beyond. I watched as the minutes were reduced to seconds, and the bid remained the same. In the last three seconds, I saw my maximum bid post~ someone had bid against me, but at a lower price than mine, and my bid came up. I won!

Now, would it really be delivered this time? And if so, would it be packed well and endure the delivery intact? I connected with PayPal and sent payment, quickly acknowledged by both PayPal and eBay that the seller had been advised to ship.  The waiting would begin. But the machine did arrive in the time predicted, and all appeared well, It was in its case, which was in a box, which was in a second box with peanuts and crushed newspaper between the boxes. I plugged it in, and turned the light on. It worked!  Before doing anything else, I went online and filled out the positive 'Feedback' as eBay requests upon delivery. I rated it all fives. It looked beautiful, the light worked, it came on time and I was happy.

Featherweight Bobbin in its case
When I went back to play with for a while, I put the foot pedal on the floor under the table, got some fabric under the needle, lowered the presser foot and the needle and stepped on the pedal. VROOOM! It took off at a gallop~ and made a very odd clinking noise with each revolution. But it had a very straight stitch, and I thought all was well. The clicking noise was annoying, but didn't seem to slow the machine.
Bobbin and Case out of Base
Until the thread jammed in the bobbin. And I looked at the bobbin, which looked fine and shiny to me. I gingerly took it out, saw that it had thread in it, and cleared the jam and put the bobbin back in. But it would no longer pick up the stitch ... it would no longer sew.  I went online and began researching at the Featherweight's own Facebook page. In time, I learned what was wrong.
Bobbin base case with visibly broken half-
nub, unable to secure between the springs
The bobbin-case-base, or carrier, had a broken finger, sometimes called a nub, or a jib. And without that finger broken to only half its normal length, it would not line up with the springs under the throat plate. And unless it was lined up, it would not sew. I would have to replace the bobbin case base with one unbroken. I decided a personal visit to a Singer repairman was in order. And who did I find, no longer in the shopping plaza but working in his own space elsewhere in the city? The retired Singer salesman that sold me my first two Singer machines over forty years ago. As it turned out, he is also a fan of vintage and antique Singer sewing machines.

Did the damage happen during shipping? Had it existed before being shipped? Did it happen when I first stitched on it? As I had already given feedback at eBay that all was well, it was my problem to solve, and my salesman friend of yore was able to find a part and replace it within just two days' time. Bless him. The machine now runs well. But I have given it away, to the friend Betty who gave me the White Treadle.  She has wanted one and plans to teach her young granddaughter to sew. I knew, when two more Featherweights found their way to me, that giving this one, repaired and in good order, was the right thing to do.

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Chapter 3  January 25, 2015
two machines that got away, and one that came to stay

You've met my first antique and my first machines.  Some of those first machines are all considered vintage now, as they are more than fifty years old. The others are only a decade away from the term. There is one more, younger machine: the 2004 Bernina 125 that Rick bought me while he worked in the Bernina shop in Rowley.  It was my birthday present, and cost more than any machine I had ever heard of.  "It's not a sewing machine," I was told by the shop owner. "It is a sewing computer!"  That was more than ten years ago, and the sewing machines today are even more computerized - like the gently-used and recently serviced Bernina 180 embroidery machine that we bought last year for an even higher dollar amount. They are both wonderful machines and I plan to use them as long as they will operate. But I have no illusion of being able to maintain their computerized components in their old age, for they have circuitry, not gears. 

The vintage and antique machines that find their way to me are machines, in the most mechanical sense. Their parts are made of strong iron ... their movements intricately calculated and reliably consistent. A little bit of sewing machine oil, an occasional polishing, and regular use keeps them in good running condition.

This is very similar to the one that got away:
withdrawn by the seller after I won it. 

And so last spring I began watching the online auctions of eBay, and the local sales of Craig's list. My first attempts at winning auctions were futile: better players than I knew enough to time their bets to the last moments, or place their maximum bids after watching the players to gauge their limits. I was outbid by a dollar numerous times. Once, though, I won the gamble: a seven drawer cabinet with its treadle machine was still within my reach, and I bid in the last three seconds and won the bid. I didn't win the auction, though, as the seller withdrew his machine, and eBay backed him up, saying that he hadn't known enough to set a 'reserve' price, and they couldn't very well force him to deliver the machine. They refunded my winning payment of $77.00 to my PayPal account without delay. He re-listed it with an asking price of $700.00. I moved on.

My next success with eBay involved a Singer model 99, which is a three-quarter sized machine in a portable barrel-shaped wooden case. The bidding had begun at a dollar, and slowly, over five days time, climbed in small increments as high as $74.00, with free shipping.  I was intrigued with the serial number's sequence, and found it to be a 1925 model 99. I again waited until the last few seconds and  hit the bid button for another dollar more, and won.  This one, I thought, would be a great candidate for a hand-crank. I began to research hand-crank transformation details. I found Cindy Peters at the Vintage Sewing Machine page of Facebook and asked about ordering the materials from her. She replied that she was expecting a new shipment the following week, and she would be in touch when it arrived.   
A serial number to remember:
the 99  undelivered;
'lost in shipping.'

The day the 99 was to arrive came and went.  I contacted the seller through eBay's message system, but had no response. I then contacted eBay to file for a resolution. Days went by ... I contacted FedEx and asked about the stalled delivery, and was transferred several times before, two weeks later, finally reaching someone who told me that the package could not be found. Then it was found, in Florida, and then it was un-found. Perhaps it had been sent to the lost and found in Utah? Not there. Nor was it still in Missouri.  Then a sewing machine was found in another state, but the serial numbers didn't match. I didn't want to give up on this one. I continued calling FedEx, messaging eBay and the seller, but it was all in vain. eBay again refunded my payment. Whether there ever was a machine that I'd won will never be told, at least not to me. I posted the serial number at the Vintage Sewing Machine page and asked people to keep an eye out for it. I've since heard no more about it.

Friends of mine were surprised to hear that I'd won and lost a second machine.  I hadn't lost faith in finding one to work with ... I just thought the right one hadn't found me yet.  But early that winter, Betty and her husband Bill decided to clear space in their breezeway, and offered me a treadle machine that had been in Bill's family. Betty, a prolific quilter in  her studio, had a few machines of her own. and so the white rotary treadle came to live with me. 

The first gift from friends:
I named her Betty for the friend who 
gave her to me, and for my younger sister
who let me borrow the first dress she made.

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Chapter 2  January 24, 2015

young students hand-sewing in a 20th century classroom

My first fabric purchase was
1/2 yard of gingham.
I was 9 years old.
My first sewing lesson was making a blue gingham draw-string sewing satchel, by hand, in our fourth grade sewing class. My next was on a treadle in fifth grade: we each had to bring in a yard of material, from which we would make a vest and skirt (yes, we were still small in fifth grade in those days.) I didn't have a 'fabric stash' as my mother didn't have a sewing machine - I was the fifth of nine children -  laundry and cooking took up all of her domestic time. There were others in class who were without as well, and the teacher had some donated fabric that she parceled out to us. I don't know what kind of treadle we worked on ... I just remember that it was hard to reach the 'pedal,' and some chose to stand between the chair and the machine and treadle with one foot. I think I chose to sit and spin the wheel with my hand. I never wore the outfit, as the teacher collected those made with donated fabric and donated them to a charity.  No matter, for I went to parochial school the next year, and we wore store-bought uniforms.

"Marie" named for my mother-in-law.
It was her machine, the one on which she 
taught me to sew in 1969.
My mother-in-law (still "to-be" in those days) taught me to sew using her Brother Zig-zag machine in 1969, the year before Rick and I were married. Her machine was fairly new then, and was in a lovely (oak?) cabinet that sat in her dining area next to the kitchen table. It had a knee-control and seemed always to go very fast. I still have that machine; it's not 100 years old, so is termed "Vintage" rather than antique. 

A few years later I bought my first, own, machine. We were married, and had our first child, and I began to sew many, many little  outfits as I realized it was faster to sew something new for an outing than it would be to do the laundry at the laundromat. Patterns for children's clothes were about a dollar, and it took only a yard to make a full summer outfit. A few years later, we had our own washing machine in our second floor apartment, and a pulley clothes line between the playroom window and a nearby tree. When I washed my husband's dungarees, they of course weighed the line down, but I had clothesline pulleys to hang in between the pairs of dungarees, pulling the lower line up closer to the top line (though both then drooped a bit, but not as far as ground level.) Her little clothes would be dry within an hour of sun and breeze. But back to the sewing machine:

My first Singer, 1971
In late 1971, when our daughter was just a few months old,  I had cut a coupon from the local newspaper for a Zig-zag sewing machine at Sears & Roebucks for just over 100 dollars. I was walking through the parking lot toward the store and had to pass a Singer store on my way. I saw that the lights had just gone on, so I went in to see if they had something comparable - and they had. The salesman showed me their new Singer Zig-zag machine and said he could beat the coupon price of Sears.  My first Singer was mint green, took plastic bobbins and weighed what felt like a ton. He carried it to the stroller for me, as I had our daughter in my arms; the stroller had a toddler seat in which I could carry shopping bags.  I used that machine for the next twenty years, making matching outfits for the two of us when she was little, and occasionally a matching tie for Rick. I made some of  my own clothes when I went to work. I didn't ever take it in for service, and rarely if ever remembered to oil it. I used the needles until they broke.  When Trish was in high school I helped her sew a dress for her Freshman Frolic. 

The machine continued to be used; our son was born 16 years later, and when we took the baby clothes out of the attic in anticipation (not yet knowing whether we were having a boy or a girl) we found that clothing and necessities for babies had changed radically - which was a good thing, for her plastic pants were mostly pink and unfolded into four separate pieces after their long storage; the metal snaps on her footed pajamas had rusted. We had a washer and dryer by now and laundry could be done and ready the next day, regardless of weather. I began making corduroy overalls again, but in short time he was wearing cute little boy jeans and sweatshirts, store bought.  The machine remained in use, but only for mending or hemming. It was pretty tired by the time our daughter went off to college, and as Rick and I were both working full time, having one child in college and one in day care; there wasn't much sewing going on. 
My second Singer, 1993

When Trish asked me to make  her wedding gown after graduating from college, I called the Singer store and asked what it might cost to have my machine, bought there in their store twenty years earlier, serviced. The salesman chuckled and said it would cost about the same as a new 1993 Singer Zig zag would cost.  Of course, I bought another Singer. It was almost identical to the one I'd bought over twenty years ago, and still as heavy.  I began sewing the wedding gown in late June when school let out. I finished it the last week of July, for the wedding was in August. The new machine sewed perfectly, and the gown was beautiful. 

I began making quilts for family and friends on that second Singer machine. I was learning on my own, following patterns I saw in beautiful quilting magazines. But my new Singer had the same accessories as my older Singer had: a regular foot, a zipper foot, and bobbins. I had never heard of a "Walking Foot," nor of a quarter-inch foot. Needless to say, I wore her out dragging the layers of quilt after quilt after quilt through her needle and feed-dogs. She began to skip stitches, and I began to think of taking her for maintenance.

My main go-to machine,
Bernina 125, 2004.
But before I could do that, Rick surprised me with a Bernina Activa 125! That machine was more expensive than I would ever have wanted to spend. I love it, and love him for knowing what I might do with such a machine ... I'll tell her story when I finished telling the tales of the oldsters...

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Chapter 1 January 20, 2015

My first antique treadle, 1904
My interest in antique sewing machines came out of the blue one day as I was walking through Sedler's Antique Village, a shop that exists in a charming old mansion in Georgetown.  Upstairs in one of the consignee's rooms was a Singer treadle machine in a five drawer cabinet, with interesting attachments in the drawers.  I asked the price and hesitated a bit when I heard it was a hundred dollars, and non-negotiable because the owner wasn't there to bargain with. I left it there and went home to mull it over. When I wandered through a week or so later, the machine was still there, and so I bought it.

1994 was not yet a very big year for internet information, and so I decided to research it by contacting the maker. I sat down and wrote a letter to the Singer Manufacturing Company, whose address I no doubt found by calling 411 for their phone number, and then being advised to send a letter requesting information based on the machine's serial number.

I've named her Mary, for both my Nanas
Many months later, I had my answer; the serial number dated the machine at 1904, and identified it as a model 27 with Sphinx decals, made in the USA.  I was told their were thousands of this model made that year and that the value was no doubt about what I had paid for it.

The machine sat for nearly twenty years; the table was rarely dusted, opened and admired, and the machine remained hidden in the closed table which held a Christmas village ice skating pond with skating figurines the rest of the year. It is always Christmas in our house ~ the village houses, the nutcrackers and angels on the mantel and the creche in the living room are always on display.   And two of its beautiful drawers served a special purpose: they were the treasure boxes for our grandchildren ... each time Zoe and Tristan would visit us, they would find little buttons, or beads, or cards or coins or plastic rings from decorated cakes tucked into their drawers ... reminders that I had been thinking of them between visits.
Grandchildren's special treasure drawers

When, in the nineteenth year of our living in this, our "forever home," I opened a quilt, fabric and notions shop in the barn beside Rick's Wooden Toy and Gift shop, my interest in the old machines was again piqued. New machines have lovely decorative stitches, but they don't have much room to the right of the needle for pushing through a large quilt.  I remembered that the old Singer in my dining room had a much wider space. I removed the ice skating pond and opened her table, and verified that she would be a wonderful machine for quilting. But I saw there was a lot to learn about her vibrating shuttle bobbin (which reminded me of the mills in Lowell) and her many intriguing mechanical attachments.

And so it began.  The more I looked, the more information I found.  And, as I had already discovered that quilters are very generous people, I learned that paralleling that generosity was the giving, sharing spirit of the VSM (vintage sewing machine) community. While I haven't yet found (nor founded) a local group of such, I have found online communities that have welcomed me into their circles.
My first treadle and her newer companions

Several more vintage machines have found their way to me in just this past year, and I will share the stories of those acquisitions gradually on this new page of Quilters' Quarters blog. Suffice it to say for now that my antique machine has many vintage partners; they now occupy the parlor and a portion of the quilt shop. Each has its own story, and is contributing to my own.  Stay tuned!

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  1. This is a new page, and I would love feedback. Shall I continue by posting new entries above or below the beginning entry?

    1. I think the "blog norm" is to post newer entries at the top of the page, and then readers go backward in time as they read down.
      Maybe this will entice me to dig out my machines and tell some stories, too. :)

  2. I popped over from VSM to read your blog. I too love the stories of how these machines came to be part of our lives. Not too many years past, these machines made every stitch of clothing we wore - including coats and underwear. So hello! And keep going please!

    1. I promisse! Thanks for reading and commenting, Bikerhen!

  3. Thank you for sharing your stories!

  4. Happiness is a wonderful machine and learning its history!

    1. And being able to do that over and over again! Thanks for visiting the page, Kit.

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