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  • Welcome to the dark side…. Somehow in the past year I have amassed a virtual herd of vintage machines. Favorite for piecing are my 301(s as in plural). Whiz bang Janome sits quietly under its dust cover. Sad.

  • I owned a 1967 Sears machine (also with cogs) which was reputed to be have a bit better than the one you have. However, it was a constant battle to keep the tension balanced. I moved on, 25 years or more later, to a computerized machine. Now I’m not ashamed to have people see the bobbin side of my sewing. Just saying!

    Treadle machines made a better stitch than the 1960’s machines (any of them!)

  • The cams! I forgot about them. Using them is fun– try the blind hem stitch. Otherwise, yeah, plastic drawer fillers.

    Yay for mint green metal machines!

  • I’m a member of the secret society.

    Nothing sews better than my Federal machine, circa 1952, also in a shade of sickly green. It was found in in a junk shop in Riverhead, NY, for $5, around 20 years ago. I had it tuned up at the sew/vac store next store (still in business). Sew/vac stores are your friend. They can fix any machine. These old metal analog machines are wonderful workhorses.

    I’m so glad you are finally learning sewing. How did you manage to escape so long?

  • Once my mom made me a skirt whose bottom third was ringed with a bunch of fancy stitches she could create using on her new Necci. I loved it. It was a dream come true. The only problem was they made the skirt so heavy—who knew thread weighed that much?—that I couldn’t keep the darn thing up. (Remember those days without hips?)

  • Ann, does your machine make buttonholes on its own, or does it need an attachment? If you are lucky it will require the Singer contraption that comes in a fabulous Jane Jetson case, egg-shaped and turquoise, like a happy little flying saucer. I got mine, in perfect condition, on eBay, for $15.00. It uses cams to very neatly make several different sizes of buttonholes.

  • I have a couple of old Singers – one from the late50’s-early 60s, that zigs, zags and reverses, and a 1944 Singer that only does straight stiching but for straight, even stitching and no tesnsion problems, it’s unbeatable. It’s also heavy as lead. I managed to stop “collecting” with those two.

  • I used my Gran’s Singer 411 for many years until the engine finally indicated it was ready for the big sewing machine graveyard in the sky. It was more than 50 years old by then, I believe. I kept the instruction manual as a keepsake. It’s beautiful. I hope you have many happy hours enjoying yours!
    (I upgraded to a Janome – a move I don’t regret!!)

  • I am just smitten by the color. Why aren’t new machines in colors like our KitchenAid mixers?

  • Welcome to the world of VSM’s (vintage sewing machines) there are an amazing array of machines still out there. My favorites are a 221 (feather weight) and the 301a (big sister to the featherweight). I also have a Necchi (mine is lavender) and if you lived in New England I would be glad to pass her on to you (she weighs a TON and not shippable). If you are ever in New Hampshire in the “camp season” May – October (Mothers Day to Columbus Day) and want it email me. She is sitting unused and forlorn. – – Sharon

    • Ok um Ann? A lavender Necchi?! You’ve already contacted Sharon about this and made plans to haul this baby home, right? Wow superior swap shop here on MDK.

  • If you get hooked, consider a Bernina. NEVER any tension problems, goes from jean denim to silk without missing a beat. I turned in my Kenmore in 1980 and have never looked back.

  • I bought my first Singer with babysitting money earned at $.50 an hour. My parents matched the other half. I think it cost $150 or so I’m sorry I traded it in For one of those with the damn cams when I graduated from college . Now I have a 30 yr old Bernina which is patiently waiting for me.

  • Love it! I’m sensing many more sewing-related blog posts in our future. Can’t wait! I’m just getting back into sewing after about a 30-year-hiatus (raising kids). You’re so creative, I can’t wait to see what your sewing adventures will be!

  • I have my Mother-in-laws old 1950’s Singer that looks much like yours except yours is a much better color. Mine attaches to a nice sewing table where you can hide the machine inside the table when not in use (which is most of the time) I took it for maintenance when I first inherited it, but the tension almost always drives me crazy! So, I bought myself a new sewing machine (on sale at Costco) for Christmas. I picked up the box expecting that all sewing machines weigh a ton. I thought I had picked up the sample model box because it was so light. How can you make a sewing machine so light? Alas, my new machine is still in the box. There’s too much knitting to distract me.

  • Wow, that is a fancy machine! You have a needle position option. I didn’t know they started doing that until the 80s. My newest machine is an 80s model Bernina (still all metal on the inside). I mostly sew on WWII era machines.
    As long as you keep her oiled and don’t overload her, she’ll last forever. (I can attest to 5 layers of light canvas as being a bit too much for the timing on many machines [overalls in the mid-90s].)

  • Huzzah, she runs! That’s fantastic. If you haven’t already done so grab some baby wipes, paper towels or an old towel and q-tips for a pre-lube clean.

    Remove the bottom panel (it should be held on with a round nut thingy and a felt washer), the top and the needle bar panel and give all those areas a good vacuum and wipeout before oiling. Old grease needs to get wiped off the two gears up top before fresh goes on. And you can check the belt condition while the top’s off. The 338/348’s are easy peasy to clean and lube — you’re going to have a blast.

    • I forgot to vacuum out under the needle plate. Oops. You’d think I’d remember cleaning under there as the first thing but no, my morning coffee’s apparently not kicked in yet.

      Also, non-pumice Gojo and an old toothbrush work wonders for greasy or gross parts that come off like feet and screws.

  • My mom taught me to sew on an old singer -the classic black with gold writing. It finally died on her so she bought a White machine (also by singer I think). In the meantime she bought me a Sears kenmore which is also a classic workhorse. I’m just getting back into sewing after a long hiatus and loving it look forward to more sewing adventures. Classic, no bells and whistles sewing machines are the best!

  • There are some good beginner sewing classes on Craftsy. I attempted a sewing journey a few years ago and found them helpful. I got distracted by family illness and work demands (and have some serious knitting to do to work on stash) but hope to spend some more time with them and my non-vintage machine this summer.

  • I had a Singer as my first machine, complete with the cams. I only used the Zig Zag one, I think! You are going to love this machine. I think you got the tension right on the last example so that means it is possible. If you ever have problems, just re-thread. When you go around that tension dial, you need to pull up on the thread until you hear a click that means that little spring on the left side has engaged. I love the color!!

  • I wish I had my old Singer. With care, those old machines with metal “works” go forever. I killed my machine when I forgot to keep it oiled (sewing much less these days, and I lost track), and it couldn’t be repaired. After doing without for a couple of years, I bought a cheap one at Joanne’s and I hate it every time I use it…it’s very lightweight because everything is made with plastic.

    By all means, if your machine takes the buttonhole attachment, move heaven and earth to find one. They make perfect buttonholes overtime, and because they clamp the fabric so tightly, they are perfect, literally perfect, for sewing buttonholes into hand knits (Remember the sweaters of the 60’s with the grosgrain ribbon on the outside, and machine buttonholes sewn through the ribbon, and the knit? I did that with that attachment, with no fear because I was 17, and they were perfect!)

  • Oh, you’re in trouble now! Think you’ve got a lot of yarn? Now you will start adding fabric to that collection…..
    The older machines have much less plastic and therefore last much much longer! Belts in that era can be replaced, luckily. Plastic is the stuff that degrades and causes problems. I would recommend finding someone who services machines, which shouldn’t be difficult in Nashville. You can clean a lot of what you can see, but when machines (which use oil) sit they attract lint to that oil, no matter how or where it’s stored. That lint oil combo can make for some real icky gunk, hiding in the guts of the machine, that will impede the creation of beautiful stitches. So go get the darling cleaned and start from a good place.

    Also, to prevent heartache and frustration, don’t use the thread that came with it in the machine. Thread actually ages, and degrades, and breaks easily. Go by some nice new Aurifil or Gutermann or Mettler or some such designer thread. (yes, you need to go buy something!)

    Welcome to the delightful world of sewing!

  • Ann, your posts the past couple of days brought back these auditory memories of hearing my mother sewing away on the singer in her bedroom. I did a bit of sewing on my sister-in-law’s former machine (my husband uses it more than I do), but also have an Elna that was gifted to me from a friend’s friend who passed away. Now I may need to take it out.

  • Sudden urge to sew!!

  • You are off to the races, my friend!

  • Congratulations! So exciting!

  • Your machine looks a lot like the one I bought about 1968 when I was in college. Same color, used cams, and had constant problems with tension. Made many items with it! Finally stopped sewing about 30 years ago. Now, I’ve come back with quilting and have 5 sewing machines: 1985 Bernina (lovely stitches), 1955 Singer Featherweight, and new Juki, Viking for embroidery, and a small Pfaff for classes (the Featherweight does not do zigzag).

    Have fun!

  • I missed yesterdays post but just want to say I love my totally analogue sewing machine, those ones with computers in them scare me a bit. It’s not as old or stylish as your Singer though, it’s a proper late 70s/early 80s styled (i.e. red and white) Bernina 1000 Special. I used to sew on it at school, and then when all the ‘Home Ec’ classes were closed down my Mum, who was the Home Ec technician, took it off their hands.

  • Caution-the old thread may be “dried out” and break more often. Keep the spools as memories if you like but I wouldn’t sew with them. I have a Brother machine that I got a few years ago after my old but solid National became too frustrating. Love it & it wasn’t as big a financial commitment for the amount I sew. No pressure while you start a relationship with your lovely old Blue Girl but it’s ok to have two machines… It’s not cheating on her!

  • I haven’t sewn for quite a few years, though I used to a lot. You are inspiring me! I actually just got my sewing machine all tuned up, but I haven’t managed to make time to try it yet. In my experience, trying to get the tension correct was the hardest thing about sewing.

  • I don’t sew and really have no urge to do so (plus, it’s better for everyone if I stick with knitting), but I keep my Mom’s old (1970s vintage) Elna in the closet, just in case. Some day she won’t be around to sew things for me, and I know I’m going to want this piece of her, which was also a HUGE piece of my childhood. Enjoy your sewing!

  • I needed a sewing machine in the mid 60s when I was pregnant and relatively poor. I saw an ad in the classifieds and went to look at the machine it was a 1920s era treadle machine in a lovely wood cabinet. The owner said it didn’t work. I tried it, put the thread through the needle the other way, and it worked like a dream. I offered more money, because they were just giving it away. They refused, said it wanted to be in a good home. I still sew on it when I need to. It will even see through leather!

    • What a wonderful story! I agree that old sewing machines, like old typewriters, need good homes. Even better that you still sew on it!

  • Another voice pointing out that thread can become brittle over time. So even on your vintage machine you might still want some spiffy new thread. Looking forward to what comes next from the needles of MDK, regardless of the type of needle.

  • Welcome to the wormhole of “vintage” machines. Many of us “sewers” like the older, all metal machines — for their reliability and their general wonderful-ness. If you keep her clean and oiled you will have many many wonderful hours of sewing in your future (because it seems you have started to acquire a fabric stash …)

    Someone mentioned cleaning the machine — cleaning the bobbin case is very important. There is a Ravelry group “Vintage Sewing Machines” where there is a huge font of knowledge and help available should you need it …. or want others to kvell over your find!

    Signed, she who is still sewing (a lot) on her mother’s Singer 401A c. 1959. And would not change machines for the world …. except when she is sewing on her Featherweight.

  • Ok, I give. It is time for me to take my Grandmother’s Singer Featherweight to the shop. It needs so much TLC because it is otherwise a sturdy workhorse (just like my Grandmother was actually…)

    Have fun with this new tool and link to your past.

  • My mom’s sewing machine (until very recently when she got a fancy Bernina that does embroidery) was a late 70s/early 80s Elna. It’s what I learned to sew on, and I loved it so much that when I graduated from college, she found me the same model on Ebay, so that’s what I have. It’s also got the pattern cams, and while I haven’t used them, I remember my mom using them as decorative stitching along the hems of several dresses I had when I was a little girl.

  • I have my mother-in-law’s old Bernina. The motor burned out due to operator error a few years ago (leaving the machine plugged in, something dropped on the foot pedal, lucky we didn’t burn down the house) – I replaced it because I love that machine!

  • I have the Featherweight shown in the manual with the TV and typewriter. It sews a perfect straight stitch for quilting. I have 3 other 1950s era Singers, but have read on Facebook of collections of 40 to 50 vintage machines.

    I enjoy taking them apart and tinkering with them, but enjoy sewing with them two. Enjoy your new machine.

  • I have two older machines, from the ’70s and ’80s. They are workhorses, created back when my Grandma could patch insulated overalls with her old Singer. (Lost in a house flood, still devastated.) I tend to sew in marathon sessions where I have a free day and decide to whip up a couple quilts and then forgo sleep until I am finished. And they have never failed to keep up with me through the all-nighters.

    Plus, one was $20. Seriously, less than a week of fancy coffee drinks for a machine that will outlast me. Garage sales are fun, but the world of church rummage sales is amazing. Crafts and vintage china, all in one room.

    • I’ve been reminiscing with friends about church rummage sales. One friend wore a $5 rummage sale wedding gown that her sister had found as a child and wore for dress-up. It was breathtakingly beautiful! The nice ladies at that church used to save the wedding dresses for her dress-up collection. Can you imagine!!??

  • I got married in 1968 (which makes me how old?) and had been working during college at the Singer Sewing Center in Braintree,Mass. Selling fabric and the occasional machine. At home I struggled with our family’s Necchi (what a pain!). But I learned on it. For a wedding gift, my girlfriends chipped in and bought me my very own sewing machine. Lord knows, it must have set them back at least $100 more or less. It was the slightly simpler version of the one you just bought. Everything but the cams. Backwards , forwards, zigzag! I think it’s a 247.
    What more could I want?
    i sewed on it for years and years – maternity clothes, baby things, kid’s clothes, curtains , pillows- you name it.
    Only a few years ago it was replaced by a more modern, quieter , and more able machine. But I’ll never sell my Singer at a yard sale. I’ll leave that to my children when they inherit it.

    • Ah, remember the Singer Sewing Centers . . . I used to buy fabric at Woolworth’s too, and WT Grant’s and McCrory’s.

      • My first job (at sixteen) was in the fabric department of Woolworth’s.

  • This is just the inspiration I needed to open the cabinet holding my great-grandmother’s 1970s-ish Singer and see if I can get it humming!

  • Such fun! Looking forward to your ongoing posts about this new adventure.

  • Waiting patiently in my basement is a Montgomery Wards Supreme Reversible Rotary Sewing Machine circa1941-54. Manual states “a Buttonhole Attachment is one luxury which is also an economy and sewing becomes a fascination anticipating the simplicity with which buttonholes can now be worked”. I am following you down the rabbit hole!

  • Here’s my 1969 Singer Touch&Sew. I still use it.
    https://www.instagram.com/p/4AVJJLx3JE/
    I learned to sew from my ma at age 8 or so (1953) and I made doll clothes. My first sewing machine was her old machine. The first place I lived when I moved out of my parents house had a Singer treadle machine in the basement. I sewed lots of stuff on that thing. It reminded me of my grandma who sewed on a treadle machine.

    • My grandmother had a treadle machine, too! I LOVED watching her use that baby. I wish I had it.

  • This looks exactly like my Mom’s old machine on which I learned to sew (since forgotten, sadly).

  • This thread is making me seriously consider selling the fancy plastic sewing machine hubby gave me for Christmas two years ago (that thing could sent up rockets!) and go back to my sturdy old Viking Husquvarna. I bought it used in 1968, so who knows how old it is? Heavy as an elephant, it does straight lines and zig zags and makes lovely buttonholes, which is more than enough for me! My sewing is pretty much limited to superhero capes and aprons anyway (nine grandchildren).

    When I got that machine as a young bride, I answered an ad for private sewing lessons and ended up hanging out with Julia Child’s sister! Tall, funny voice — no doubt she was the real deal. She “helped” me make a little coat for my niece (that is, she made it and I watched) which was spectacular, with two-piece bound buttonholes and a monogram. Oh my, the memories!

  • Oh, dear. It works! Therefore, it makes noise. Ann, have you found the cats yet?

  • Your comment yesterday about the smell really got me – takes me right back to the 1950’s standing next to my Mom watching her sew on her Singer 221 (featherweight). She’s still alive and still uses it, even though she also has a newer model.

    I got a 221 (black with gold curlicues) of my own in college (in the ’70s) that the Singer website tells me was made in 1934 in New Jersey. Wouldn’t part with it for anything. It only goes forward and backward, but that works for me. Every time I get it serviced, the repairman wants to buy it!

  • I also have a very old Singer Slant Needle with a little handle on top so you can carry it around. I am not a proficient seamstress, so it is perfect for me. It goes backwards and forwards and is good for Halloween costumes, pillow covers, and minor household repairs. There are metal attachments that I have NO idea what to do with!

  • Seeing that you bought a sewing machine just totally made my morning!

  • OMG!!! Almost the same model I still have…mine has zig-zag stitch, as well. My parents gave it to me when I went off to college. It still works like a champ.
    Love the pale blue!

  • odd i left a comment but its not here…

    anyway, i hope you go to Janet’s blog… she has SO much info about vintage sewing machines and repairing and cleaning and … some of the machines she has cleaned up are GORGEOUS … now i want a necchi…

    my FashionMate 288 is in desperate need of cleaning.. i have a newer model bought last year still in the box… but may have to start trawling craigslist for an italian…

  • My mother’s 1950’s era Singer was practically the death of me more than once. However, recently I’ve discovered the Janomes at my local LYS, which is also a fabric shop and has a workshop. Sewing still terrifies me (the cutting especially!), but I’ve made a few cute things. I appreciate the aesthetics of the old machine, but am really glad to have found these fancy new ones!

    I also have an old treadle machine that I got for free when I lived in Germany. I have no idea how old it is, but I’m guessing the 1920s/30s. I should do some research, I guess. My ex refinished the cabinet and I use it as a side table in my living room, but the machine is still inside, waiting….

  • my mother is also into “new technology” ( by the way, I’m nearing my sixth decade), so she has had a
    number of computerized machines. I, however, sew on her old Singer, circa 1956. Its olive green, very
    basic like yours, and does exactly what I need it to do! Love the analog!

  • Has anyone warned you about using ancient thread? It doesn’t last forever. All the ancient thread I’ve inherited has been weak and generally not so good to use. If I can break the thread easily with my bare hands, I think it’s too weak to use in my clothing.

    It was also a few years before I realized I should toss all my inherited pins, too. Rough, nasty bent pins can snag your fabric and are just generally not pleasing to use.

    Old sewing machines last forever, though. Congratulations!

  • Now come and join me in the Alabama Chanin School of Making… (Also – did you know that Sophia Loren was in the Necchi advertising campaign?)

  • oh my, does this take me back! i learned to sew on one of these beasties and then somehow it ended up mine after my evil stepmother…stepped out. it weighed a TON (as you must know by now) but it sewed through anything I put to it.
    too many awkward memories haunted it, though, so off it went to an unsuspecting sewist 😉

  • So sweet to see this machine in action. My mom used to own this same model, her parents gave it to her for middle school graduation and she sewed many hippie dresses for herself in high school.

  • I loved this post. But would you please go cut up an old pillowcase or mens shirt or something to practice with instead of that Anna Maria Horner fabric?

  • Janome indeed. Since when is that a tribe? The owners of old Singers is my tribe!!!!! These old machines are so reliable. My Mom made (on her Featherweight) our Spring coats, all our dresses (and hers), our prom dresses, the living and dining room drapes, quilts, bedspreads complete with custom piping. Then I made the suit I went to college in, 2 down sleeping bags, car upholstery, down jackets and vests, many more shirts and dresses, curtains, bed spreads, quilts. I still have that machine and it keeps on working. The one person I know who owns a Janome is waiting 10 days for it to be repaired.

  • I am a recovering sewing machine addict.
    I have culled my herd from ten (ish) to mebbee six. I kept the beautiful mahogany encased treadle and the weep worthy hand crank in the wood case, two janomes and a serger. off the top of my head. But Lord God I do love a beautiful sewing machine.
    Ann your machine, she has a nice stitch. Happy sewing!

  • That looks exactly like the machine my mother had when I was growing up. Wow.

  • Wow. This blog post and all these comments are really taking me back. I grew up a sewer, mostly due to my grandmother, and my parents gave me a Singer Stylist 834 when I graduated high school. I made most of my clothes in college, but then my sewing slowed down later as time and space became rare commodities while working and raising my girls. Ironically, it’s knitting that got me reacquainted with sewing because of the cross-over I’ve discovered on various blogs. I blew the dust off my machine a couple of years ago and am now going to check out some of the Singer sites mentioned in earlier comments to find a replacement copy of my owner’s manual and a new buttonhole foot so I can get back to some more serious sewing!

    Happy sewing — I know you’ll have a blast!

  • I have both my mom’s (circa 1960-ish) machine and my grandmother’s machine (she upgraded in 1974) and they’re better than the one I got in 1985! I recently found that youtube is a fabulous source of videos for fixing your machine or doing anything that the user manual assumed you already knew how to do!

    Have fun!

  • Except for the color, that looks like the sewing machine I replaced year before last. But I know it wasnt a 1967. More like early 80’s. At this point fixing/cleaning etc was going to cost more than a basic new one! So I bought the basic new one!

  • Hooray! Now I have to go tinker with my mom’s Singer. It’s a little bit fancier model from the mid-50s but a less-exciting shade of gold/brown. I haven’t been able to get the tension right, even after having it serviced, but perhaps there’s hope yet!

    (I totally went out and got one of the fancy new ones though. But not too fancy.)