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139 Comments
  • Great story. I’ve got chills from the “Mother”… can’t wait to see your adventures with it. My mom gave me her solid metal, blue, machine-oil-scented sewing machine years ago. My grandmother bought it for her as a wedding present. I use it a few times a year for mostly rectangles (curtains, quilt covers, superhero capes).

  • So poignant! You are a truly gifted writer, Ann.

    Reading this, I can feel the weight, smell the oil, and recollect the sound of my mum’s first Singer. Thanks for the memories!

  • Oh, Ann.

    I think you are beginning a love affair with a piece of machinery. Have fun!

  • Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My mom had a Necchi also and I, too, can remember that machine oil smell.

  • Pass me a Kleenex, please.

    • Me, too.
      Anne, you got a deal. They don’t make them like that anymore. I have a 1961 Singer ‘Slantomatic’ (aka Judy Jetson). Several years ago, I attempted to trade her in on a fancy new model. The sewing machine man wouldn’t let me, telling me I would regret giving her up! Clean her up and enjoy this new adventure.
      Love,
      Kim

      • I found a ’61 Singer Slantomatic at a yardsale in a Boston suburb in 1993, and made all kinds of marvelous baby items on it. I have loved that machine.
        Those old Singers are solid!
        Have fun.

    • Another tissue here please! Thanks for writing this – you can see in the comment how many people you have touched deeply.

  • What a great story! I hope you get many hours of enjoyment from that sewing machine – which is clearly so much more than just a machine.

  • You will love sewing. Oh the fabric!, oh the projects you can complete in a few hours! Have fun.

  • I love everything about it! Enjoy your prize. It seems the universe was on your side. Take it for a spin, but don’t hesitate to take it in for a maintenance check. You can also visit YouTube to perform some home maintenance. The biggest thing is checking belts, oiling the main shaft and clearing out lint from all of the little hidey-holes around the mechanism. Most of all have fun with it – and consider taking a class.

    • Second this recommendation and when you are there be sure to get a hands-on lesson on adjusting the tension, and what to do if the stitches get kinky, which if I could have ever persuaded my late 60s Singer to do correctly it would still be with me today. Have fun!

  • What a wonderful story! I love the color of that machine. I used to play with my mother’s cutting board when she had it out to cut out her fabric. So many childhood memories of her sewing….I’m glad she made things.

  • When you take it in for maintenance, be prepared to hear how the person prefers these mechanical machines to the modern electronic wonders. My Bernina is nearly 40 years old, and I swear my maintenance man is in love with her. One of my nieces has my mother’s Bernina (aged, I think about 61 or 62 years old). And my “back up” machine is a 1956 Singer…

  • You got a prize! Oil the heck out of it – the manual will tell you where. My mom’s machine was a similar vintage Singer. She made my prom dress, a couple of other formals. What a treasure!

  • Two comments. OK, three:
    -that is so true about the craft department at estate sales these days–I hadn’t put it together with it being 1960’s moms who are passing.

    -the handwritten Mother…oh man. That kills me.

    – I own that same sewing machine , it was my mother’s . She graciously upgraded and let me take it to college with me. It was already old when it became mine, it has soldiered through many years of clothes, and curtains and then years of faux fur halloween costumes, king’s capes, and hemming pants in a hurry. It’s all metal–they don’t make’em like they used to. Score! It’s a keeper. Except holy hell, when you need to carry it upstairs, it weighs a ton, you need a sherpa.

    • I can’t believe you have the same machine! You and Ann are Style Mates!

  • You will love this machine! I learned to sew on a Slantomatic and have a lower priced Bernina now – but my go-to machine for all things mending and quilting is a Singer Featherweight – which is the same type of machine my mom learned on and used initially. My mom is gone as well – and I ache for those crafting moments with her even though I had her much longer than you had your mom. It’s a wonderful tie to our pasts and a renewal of memories. And on a lighter note – you have to love the color of this machine! There are still repair guys out there who can service these machines – and it’s not that expensive to have a regular service as long as it seems functional now – and sounds like was lovingly cared for (oil scent)!

    • I agree about the “lovingly cared for” part. Not only the machine oil smell, but the fact that the manual was still with the machine! Beautiful story…the “mother” made me cry, too. I lost my Singer-using mother in 2010.

      • I thought I was probably the only one who cried…my Singer dates from 1966 when it replaced the Franklin. First things I made were bridesmaid dresses for my sister’s wedding. My sister got the Franklin, I have the Singer.

  • I still have my grandmother’s Singer from the 40s, which I inherited while in grad school. I sewed all kinds of things on it. I bought a new machine a couple of years ago so I could sew a zig-zag stitch, but I still keep the old one.

  • The smell! You are so right! The new machines don’t have it, but my mother’s definitely did, and that’s the one I learned on. Singer c1960. Hers was in a sort of console with a lid that opened to become the “return” / sewing ramble, and you pulled the machine up top from where it was suspended below. When I was 10, I was at great mechanical disadvantage when trying to haul that thing up!

    Is yours foot pedal or knee? I never mastered the knee one.

    Enjoy!!

    • Yes, my mom had the one in the case too. I just got the strongest image of her, sitting there, making me clothes, and that sound of the needle going up and down. Thanks for the memories, everyone; ghost in the machine for sure.

  • what a beautiful thing… The story, the color of the machine, the mother on the cover. Pass me a tissue.

  • ditto, my heart skipped a few beats and i need a kleenex. lovely. so glad you found this machine !

  • I use a sewing machine that I inherited from a great-Aunt. It’s the same one my mother has, the one that I learned to use. Sewing certainly is not my passion, but I adore my 1954 Singer – black with gold paint. A few years ago I had it serviced and it’s marvelous.

    • Yours is a featherweight and there’s a great book out which tells its history including dates of manufacture for different serial numbers. The manual is also reproduced in the book!

  • I own Singers both new (white plastic, a dozen or so fancy stitches) and ancient (black iron, gorgeous engraved trim, several attachments, including a “ruffler,” that I’ve never used, no zig-zag (well of course not)).

    My mom was a wizard seamstress. Dresses for us both, suits for her, ballroom wear for my voluptuous doll (dubbed Gina Lollobrigida by the adults in the room the moment I unwrapped her). She traded in her old Singer for a sleek black (but still all-metal) new one when I was about 10. It made fancy stitches by means of cams.

    My parents gave me a more-than-ancient portable Singer when I was in grad school. In order to go backwards you had to turn the fabric around. Then, a few years later, came my current beloved, in a graceful little table. They bought it at a country auction. I love heaving the machine up out of the innards of the table. It’s like performing the best magic trick ever.

    I adore the ancient Singer and loathe the new one. The new one yaks and clicks; the old one purrs like a kitten. The new one is crabby and loves to make tangles and screw up its tension. The old one is imperturbable, in a continuous state of zen. It has happily made curtains, maternity clothes, little-girl clothes and grown-up girl clothes, Halloween costumes . . . whatever I fancied, it was happy to oblige. It even hems jeans if I treat it respectfully.

    You are going to love your beautiful old machine.

  • A male friend and I have been accumulating the ‘vintage’ Singers of the 1940s and 50s for over a year now. Don’t ever pass up a 401, 301 or 500 (or a 221 if you can find it!). They are work-horse machines, simple to service and maintain, and virtually indestructible. I bought one ‘frozen’ machine for $20 – it had been through a fire – with some work and $50 in parts it’s all but new, except for a few scars for personality. There are other true treasures out there, for very little money, that will give you everything and more that you ever wanted from a sewing machine. All they ask in return is to be recognized and some TLC.
    Colors and Style! Hold on to your hat!

    • Thanks for listing the model numbers – will copy for future garage sale use.

  • My mom had a similar Singer that I lost track of. When I started to look for it, it had been given away and I felt a similar loss. I’m happy you happened into this one.

    We have a good sewing machine store here in Fort Collins, and if I ever see an old Singer that looks like it’s in good condition, I feel like I’ve got the support of a the professionals if I buy it.

  • What a beautiful post – I just had my 30 year old Pfaff tuned up for the first time. When I blew all that money on it 30 years ago it had a 25 year warranty. I couldn’t imagine ten years in the future, never mind 25. Those Germans kept their word. My mother had a cast-on Singer that my sister still uses.

  • A sweet story! And a great find. I refurbished a blue 338 — it could be a twin to your 348. If it’s missing the manual Singer has PDF copies for free on their website. Don’t let a tech talk you out of it trying to upsell you into a new machine. Ten bucks says, well, ten bucks worth of parts would probably fix anything wrong with it.

    Here’s an ad for one I found while working on the 338: (http://www.ravelry.com/forum-images/TuftedTitmouse/1w7pi-de4ahc). Dig those mod triangle sunglasses.

    I love bringing home thrifted all metal sewing machines to tinker with. They’re little time machines. Have fun!

    • Love the photo!!!!!!!

  • What a fabulous find!! My daughter uses my mother’s old Singer 500 (aka, The Rocketeer) and lugged it along to a quilting class we took together (I had my old Husqvarna); we definitely had the loudest machines in the room — all those mechanical gears! No circuit boards! I find great comfort in that sound as well. My mother sewed like mad when we were little. Have fun!!

  • What a wonderful story and a wonderful find!! Well worth the $40!! I just started to receive your emails about 2wks ago and I love them! I look forward to opening my emails everyday! Thank you for the great start to my day!!

  • My mother’s ’57 Necchi is the machine (with a knee pedal!) on which I learned to sew. It sits, gathering dust in the cherry cabinet, at my dear SIL’s house (she does not sew). I LOVE that machine. They just don’t make ’em like that any more. And while that may be an amazing machine, I have an even better prize: my maternal grandmother’s Singer, also in a 50’s style wood cabinet. I own my own machine as well, and in fact, do not even use Grandma’s Singer, as it needs a lot of TLC (read: overhaul), but when a cousin was cleaning out my aunt’s home after her recent passing, I just could not let the Singer go to the dump. There are so many childhood memories of Grandma taking in sewing, mending, making costumes for my cousins and I… Oh, pass the tissues. After I brought it home I gave it a good rub-down with Murphy’s oil, and the cabinet looks just as it did when I was a kid, except smaller somehow. Thanks for the memories!!

  • I, too, have this machine! My mother in law gave it to me back in the late 80’s, glad to be rid of it. Have it serviced, get some new needles, and it will give you hours and years of joy!

    Sewing has become my “knitting time out” when I fear a repetitive stress issue coming on (4 hrs a night on socks, shame, shame).

    Think of all the Natalie Chanin-esque art to be made!

  • I lost my mom when I was in college. I used to watch her knit endlessly. She taught me to knit, but it didn’t stick. But I always wanted to go back to it. And I did. And now you will go back to sewing with this great machine. Love that some little girl wrote “mother” on the instruction manual. Have fun — hope you show your journey!

  • Beautiful post today. xo

  • Dashing off to work. One thing – you need to check out JANET SZABO on Facebook and read her blog
    She is a knitter who has become a quilter and a sewing machine repair guru. She collects Necchis… Contact her!

    • …and “szabo” means “tailor” in Hungarian!

      • Wow!

  • I bought a sewing machine a couple of years ago. I can sew a straight line with some confidence now. I made a “work clothes quilt” with saved-up blue jeans, which was fun. I’m sure you will develop a healthy stash of fabric, and may your bobbins never misbehave!

  • What a find! And it was waiting there, just for you 🙂
    You might want to have a meander through a couple of rav groups (you knew there’d be a group for this on rav, right?) – I like Vintage Sewing Machines, and Sew Obsessed. Loads of practical info on older machines. And pretty pictures, like yours 🙂
    I inherited my Auntie Ruby’s Featherweight, and just last night decided on a new project. Cutting out is like casting on, only with more scraps. And you have to be careful to keep track of pins…more than one kitty has been fascinated by the thrill of drawing pins out of my pincushion, one by one. And chewing on a long piece of discarded thread, or worse, thread with a needle (surprise!) on the far end, is hazardous.
    /End of Feline Health and Safety Alert
    Congratulations on buying a ticket to Adventure! I can’t wait to see what you come up with! 🙂

    • If you have to go to the vet in the middle of the night with a cat that has a needle and thread through his chin, it will cost upwards of $500 to get him sorted out…ask me how I know.

  • She’s a beaut! I love a metal sewing machine and it is truly about the smell. That might be the only part of my hobbies that my husband really gets. . .

  • I have a Kenmore (probably built by Janome) of similar vintage and it’s still going strong after all these years. My only advice is to buy good thread. Modern threads, especially cheap ones, have a lot more polyester and are thinner than what your machine was built for. I have bobbin tension issues with new thread that I never have with old thread.

    • I won’t let her buy cheap thread!

  • Ann, I believe in synchronicity. I also believe that it is an indication, a tangible indication, that we are Divinely guided and loved. Reports such as today’s post have such a deep meaning for me, as well as being necessary reminders (I forget sometimes). Also, last night I realized aspects of missing my own mother which I had never before seen. So your post has even more meaning for me today.

    On a lighter note, and in light of your new sewing machine, I would like to pass along to you four of the quilters who I follow on Instagram. No matter if I can check the general feed or not, I check specifically for these four ladies’ posts on a very regular basis:

    0_lily_0_
    laurie3.14.
    entropyalwayswins
    cauchycomplete

    Ann, I wish you a lot of fun on your new sewing journeys. Send us a postcard from time to time.

    LoveDiane

  • Life is just better with a sewing machine!

  • Good machine repairs (and amazing fabrics) can be found at Textile Fabrics on Craighead St. Just saying.

  • You and your readers’ words about sewing machines makes me almost — almost! — want to try learning to sew again.

    You see, I was subjected to Home Ec in middle school. Lived in fear of stabbing myself on the machine — or worse, of breaking something. Got a B- on my apron.

    • Breaking one sewing machine needle too many got me banned from the primary school sewing room and I sat out with the boys (doing way more fun activities like woodwork and making doughnuts). But it meant that my dress for the fashion show (what can I say, it was the 70s) was held together by pins … and attitude. That attitude served me well some years later when I decided it was silly to be scared of sewing and I hand sewed a dress for going to the wedding of two friends (BC to KG).

      Loved the blog entry, despite my issues with sewing.

  • Thanks for a teary start to my morning. No, really, thanks. My mom couldn’t sew to save her life, so for me it’s her roasting pan. But it’s really about mothers, isn’t it?

  • My mother had that Necchi – wow, I haven’t thought about that sewing machine in years. Made me miss her so much.

  • Comment

  • Oh Ann. You bring back so many memories of my mother sewing in my room long after I was supposed to be asleep. And the smell of my grandfather’s shop where he was busy tinkering with someone’s machine that needed a fix or cleaning. And you inspire me to finish those projects that were relegated to a bag somewhere in the closet years ago so that they won’t end up in that yard sale when I’m gone.

  • You are an artist with your camera. The shot of the wooden spool of thread evoked the memory of going to Great Grandma Johnson’s house, dumping out her collection of wooden spools on her braided wool carpet, and playing with the spools as if they were building blocks. Lovely images to counter the TV news this morning.

  • Oh wow, your sewing machine has a name. It’s called Mother. That is either really sweet or the first lines of a Stephen King novel.

  • ❤️

  • The first thing I thought when I began reading was,” I hope she didn’t buy a piece of plastic Singer crap.” Thank goodness no. I began down the rabbit hole of vintage Singers when several showed up at the local Goodwill. Who knew there were legions of fanatical vintage Singer collectors? There is a Vintage Sewing Machine group on FB 25,000 strong and their posts so overwhelming took over my page (?), I had to make the group secret. I learned so much there. I also have a Stylist, and these people consider it the last model Singer made that was ‘good’. If you want to know when it was made, just look up the serial number. Google Singer serial numbers. Singer has kept track of every machine via serial numbers, even the very early ones. I have a couple from the 1900’s. They still work.

  • My mom and I learned to sew at the same time and we shared that love of creating things up until she died. When I moved out after college she shopped the sewing macine repair shops (yes, there were shops.plural) to.find me an older, heavier metal Singer, which she found and I still have and it still works beautifully, some 40 years on. I don’t sew much at all any more but I still make curtains and in fact have made all the ones in my house. That sewing macine always takes me back to laying out pattern pieces on the dining room table, while my mom is in the kitchen making dinner. Thanks for.the happy memories Ann and enjoy your new Singer!

  • Tears at 6:30 am on the west coast. I continue to use my Mother’s 1945 Singer. Personally I have quilted more than 250 quilts on that machine. I remember my sister and I making leather scrap mini-skirts with our workhorse of a machine in the late 60’s.
    You are a lucky girl.

  • It probably weighs a ton, Cast iron and all! The prize is the manual. The sewing gods were on your side. Enjoy it and love it. I know we’re my first 2 machines are….gifted to daughters….just in case I need them.

  • That is just a great find. I am looking at a vintage machine on craigslist that is $125. It’s in a cabinet, but it’s not nearly as fantastic looking. I had a similar machine to your find that my aunt found me at a garage sale, but it came with a built in cabinet. I used it for a while sort of half-assedly and then gave it away when I heard a friend of a friend had lost everything in a fire. I regret it but I feel guilty for regretting it. My replacement brother machine was brand new, but I lost the bobbin cover and have never been able to get a new one. I find myself wanting to troll estate sales for one of these lovely old work horses that just does 2 things– straight and zigzag.

  • I still mourn the loss (due to flood) of my old 1967 sewing machine that was my graduation gift from my parents. Having your own sewing machine was considered true independence for me. Those old machines are valuable the same way some good ole boys search the backroads for old “all mechanical” pickup trucks. No computer chips, no fancy doo-dads to go wrong. Just keep her cleaned and oiled and sew. Sew. SEW!

  • My Singer sewing machine is close to the same model. It has one or two very small differences and is the same color. It is the only machine I have ever used-other than the ones in home-ec 44 years ago. It was my mother’s and she gave it to me for high school graduation. I have it service every few years.

  • What a lovely post. And, my guess is, you scored. I have two machines, a fancy Bernina my husband gifted me a decade or two ago, and the Singer my grandmother gave me as a high school graduation gift back in the early 70s. I keep the Singer for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it’s the one that bails me out of trouble when my persnickety Bernina acts up. It is basic and simple, but utterly dependable to this day. Can’t wait to read of further adventures with your new friend.

  • OH. Ann. Sniff. It’s like our mothers never stop taking care of us.

    When my mom died, I really wanted her machine for the connection to her, her craft and the gift of sewing she gave me. Her top stitching was unbelievably perfect. My younger sister asked for it. It took all of my big-sister mojo to say, “It has a beautiful straight stitch. You quilt. Take it.”

    I can not wait to see what you and Ms. Blue do!

  • My mom had a sewing machine. I think she made a set of curtains once or twice around the time of my birth – think mid to late 60s. I never saw her use it and think she gave it away. It was a big metal Singer in a table. My sister picked up sewing in high school and college. She has a newer machine and our grandmother’s ancient Singer she hasn’t used yet, only inherited a couple of years ago.

    I tried sewing once on a new (plastic) machine my sister had. Let’s just say we just didn’t get along. It left my house in a box to California. This post makes me want to find a vintage beauty and give it another try.

    Thanks for the beautiful post!

  • Chills for me too. Thanks for sharing the story.

  • Mmmm. That lovely machine oil smell was the first thing that struck me at the Lowell National historic site (then the noise!!) I have my grandmother’s 221, which makes the teeniest, even-est stitches ever. Loved listening to my mom and grandmothers sewing, although one never warmed to the machine, and did everything (dresses, curtains, linens!) by hand. Thanks, Ann!!!

  • My grandfather and mom came to America from Hungary. He became a very prominent dress designer in New York City. Sad to say my moms original Singer she gave away when her and dad moved to Florida early 70’s and she never asked if I wanted it. She always wanted to look forward and never back so to her it wasn’t anything I would have wanted. Really regret that decision. No hard feelings she was an amazing lady.The sounds and scents of her machine are still with me. Your right the new ones miss it by miles!!

    Theresa

  • Love.

  • What a fabulous vintage machine. Love everything about it (and look forward to seeing what you make with it 🙂 )

  • Lovely post, and memories of mothers who sewed. I almost gave up on sewing (on crappy new machines) until I bought a new (mechanical) Juki, which is like my mom’s old Singer on steriods. It doesn’t do anything fancy, but sews beautiful even stitches and has a huge throat. Good luck with your objet trouve and happy sewing.

  • Thanks for sharing. Seems like your posts have special meaning to me on a frequent basis. Love my mom’s old machine, it is my age, 55 years old. Weighs a ton. They just don’t make them like they used to.

  • The Necchi brings back so many wonderful memories. I got a Necchi Supernova Ultra – new- in 1960 as a sophomore in college studying Home Economics. I had the machine for about 28 years with never a problem and no repair costs. What a work horse! I rue the day I abandoned it to a new owner replacing it with a now “old” Bernina. I still miss my Necchi, a green one in a Cheryl’s cabinet with a knee power pedal! Enjoy your “new” toy.

  • I have (2) Singer machines from the WWII era, one mom’s and one grandmother’s. Love them. As you said, strange attachments that are great fun and the machines might be loud, but were made of metal to actually last a few lifetimes. Enjoy.

  • Thank you for today’s post. Memories. Love.

  • What a great story! Those old machines are the best – made with metal parts, not plastic. It may not do any fancy stuff, but it should treat you right for the basics. Have fun with it!

  • Ohhhhh….instant tears here. That was my mom’s machine. The one on which she patiently taught me to sew when I was a wriggly, squirmy kid. She drew labyrinth type shapes on hundreds of pieces of paper and newsprint for me to trace with an unthreaded needle. I felt a huge accomplishment when I acquired sufficient driving skills and she threaded up her machine and I got to hem a dish towel…..in a contrasting thread color no less. That machine made every piece of clothing I owned until I went to high school. What memories…..sigh….miss ya, Mom.

  • I have the same machine: a 16th birthday gift from my Mimi…..some 48 years ago. It works very well for sewing just about anything (which I have). Enjoy it: they don’t make ’em like that any more.

  • O M G. I would have bought that for the color alone, but the instruction manual (what’s new for tomorrow is at Singer today!) and “Mother” – wow.

  • Great adventure. Glad the machine ended up in a good home.

  • If you can find the serial # there is a singer website that will give you her “born on” date. (All sewing machines are “Her” or “She”by the way…like boats”. Have fun!!

    (And that smell…sometimes I take a whiff of my Grandmother’s Singer Featherweight, just to bring the memories into sharper focus.)

  • Wonderful story, thank you and wishing you many happy hours sewing. Sewing is a fair amount like knitting: a great pattern is very important but you can’t tell if it’s any good when you are a beginner, good fabric makes a huge difference as does good thread. Other important advice- change your needle often! A fresh needle makes for easier sewing. Sewing projects can cause great frustration but can also be thrown with very little damage to the end product , just like knitting! The ‘Sweetpea Pod’ pattern recently caught my eye and I had to order it. Google it & take a look when you get a chance. I don’t think it’s a beginner pattern but might be a 2nd or 3rd project. The designer has a class on Craftsy that I am going to watch too. True confession, despite having put in a couple, zippers frighten me. Learning to knit made me a better sewer.

  • YAY! these old machines have a way of finding us. someone recently asked me if i was interested in an old machine, to which i said no thanks, but agreed to look at it to offer advice on where she might find a home for it. she opened the trunk of her car and there sat the exact model my mom had since the 50’s, the one that i learned to sew on and had always regretted letting get away. it’s in mint condition and now lives with me.

    you did the right thing for sure. i can’t wait to see what happens next!

  • Love this story…thank you for the memories of my Mom and her Singer.

  • Ann–Cohn Learning Center (on Park Avenue, next to the Richland Park Library) offers Metro’s Community Education classes, including sewing classes, and I’m taking one this semester. The sewing classes are always in high demand, and I missed out on last semester’s class because it was oversold. (There’s a way to be first in line, and if you’re interested, I’ll write it out for you. Otherwise, too boring for your blog.) I have both of my mother’s sewing machines (heavy metal from the 40s and white plastic from the 60s), but I wound up buying a new machine as it was going to be time-consuming to get the old ones going and my classes had started. I sewed as a kid, but it’s a whole new world now!

  • Well, yes, that machine is heavy. I inherited its twin from my aunt. But I passed it on because it was my fourth machine and space is running out (already have two floor looms, spinning wheel etc and etc.)
    I sew on my fancy computer babylock which sits on the wooden cabinet with my mother’s 1950 White/Singer machine. Many memories of mom working on that one while I colored pictures on the floor next to her. She sewed matching dresses for me and my older sister. (Bad idea when one sister is pudgy and the other is not.)
    And then in the attic sits my grandmothers 1900 machine….with the big floor pedal you work with both feet. As a toddler, I would sit on that and rock back and forth (after grandmother unhooked the cord that went around the wheel!!)

  • What a great find! And to echo everyone else – they don’t make them like that any more. When I was recuperation from many surgeries on an ornery shoulder, I took a look at e-bay. The rabbit hole sucked me in and I now own several vintage Singers, Berninas and a couple of 50’s copy cats from Japan that are just as good as the Singers. When I get in a sewing slump I knit and the other way. BTW, you can use the machine for reinforcing steeks. Wonderful post – also brought back memories of my Mom – she sewed for all 5 kids out of necissity but she always made sure it was the latest style. Mom’s are the best!!

  • I know that sound, that smell that ghost. Sewing machines can be a delight. Have fun, a quilted colorful spread is waiting to be revealed.

  • In 1967 my mother bought me a blue Style Mate 348 to keep me from using her 1950s Necchi. I used and loved that Singer for 30 years. Enjoy, and thank you.

  • So….I traded in my boyfriends yard sale plastic 70s machine at the shop for an old singer 401a because he wouldn’t fix the plastic. Then the tension never worked on the 401a (though recent child interest in my home has made me pull it out and this string of comments is giving me new hope for better repair people). So I went to the ends of the earth (Queens!) and the end of my budget to get a new all-metal Bernina because it isn’t possible to get my moms model anymore and it’s all I wanted. After which, she finally upgraded to computerized and hasn’t looked back but also STILL won’t give me her old one.
    Fast forward a few years: my children had loads of fun sewing at my mothers and want me to get a machine “like grandma’s” because hers has the needle threader and the push button operation and the needle down setting and the automatic thread cutter and…
    Oh, le sigh. When getting the machine like your mom’s is still not having a machine like your mom’s…
    Eternal credit to the mom, though: when I mentioned they wouldn’t have so many buttons to push at home, she made them learn the pedal.

  • Oh man! I don’t know which I enjoyed (felt nostalgic) more – the post or all the comments. You’ve taken lots of us down memory lane this morning. My mother had a Kenmore in a huge cabinet (I swear the machine was cast iron. I needed help to lift it up out of it’s hiding place inside the cabinet.) Unfortunately, it got away from me and I think about it every time I sit down to sew. Good luck on your new adventure!

  • You hit us in the heart this morning. I thought about the history of sewing in my own family. It is a strong thread that connects generations of talented seamstress’. I have a heavy metal Kenmore from the 70’s that I thought about replacing. The service man said I would never get the same quality machine at any price. My mother, my grandmothers and my Aunts all passed on the skill of sewing to me. Maybe before I die I can share it with my craft averted daughter or son. Thank you for this memory journey.

  • Amazing story! I am so happy for you. Take that machine and yourself to a sewing class and I know you will feel your mom’s presence with you. As someone who recently lost their husband, I honestly feel these types of experiences are messages and gifts from them.

  • Congratulations, new owner of an old sewing machine. I have one of those old Singer sewing machines (black with gold accents) that belonged to my Mom and I am told is practically priceless. She and It was responsible for prom dresses, dance recital costumes, mending my Dad’s work pants, etc. etc.
    About the only thing I sew anymore is hems and cloth bags for my grandchildrens many-pieced toys. I am not sure what will happen to it when I can no longer sew but I hope it is someone like you.

  • It sounds to me that it was Heaven sent!
    I also wonder what object of mine will evoke memories of me to my daughter 30 years from now? Is there something I should stash away in the attic? My iPhone? lol

  • I still have mine and use it all the time. It is so reliable and does a good job!

  • What a great post! I, too, associate a less technologically enabled sewing machine with my mother. It was a black Singer that was stored nicely under the table top that acted as her night table. I spent a lot of time at that machine, learning how to use it and watching old movies on the black and white tv that lived in my parent’s bedroom so my siblings and I wouldn’t rot our brains watching too much of it.

  • WOW! Congratulations on your find!

  • Wow–that’s the same machine that my mom bought new and still uses! Congratulations! 🙂

  • Well, the old Singers are rugged marvels. While the name, “Singer Style-Mate” has its merits, I would be tempted to christen this pale beauty, “The Carrington”. Sorry your Mom’s machine slipped away…that’s too bad. Maybe it will find its way back to you at some point.

  • What a great estate sale find! So many of us relate to the sewing machine memories – my mom had an old Kenmore on which I learned to sew in the mid-’60s. My sister still has it somewhere. Your particular turquoise beauty was the machine they used in my high school’s Home Economics classroom. I learned to make flat felled seams and bound buttonholes on them. Fast forward to graduate school, I bought a new Bernina (on payments!) just in time to make baby clothes for my older son. I still have that workhorse and all it ever needed was a cleaning at the service center. Alas, I sprung my back like an old Slinky toy last year and I’ll never lift that machine again. So, I bought the lightest machine I could find for my occasional mending jobs – the Hello Kitty red Janome! My kids think I’ve gone round the bend, they even posted pictures of me with it, on Facebook.

  • I felt every word. I’d like to say that as you start on this journey lubrication is the single most important thing. Proper tension adjustment is next. Hoping your adventure in “modern” seeing is as good as mine has been. I’ve been refurbishing old machines for 8-9 yrs and my Grama’s spirit is always on my shoulder.

  • Well told. So many choices to make. Stuff and things are sometimes so much more – thank you for that.
    And…
    I bet that machine will serve you well, and should you see a green, torpedo-shaped, “SINGER” labeled container at some other garage sale, snap it up as likely you have found the incredible buttonhole attachment. The best buttonholes; best. Hugs, jdu

  • Crying a little now. After my mom died a little over a year ago, I gave away the Singer sewing machine she had bought me for my birthday in the 1970s. I kept her beloved Elna instead, a Cadillac of a machine that she treated herself to after sewing all our clothes on one of those curvy gilded black Singers of the past. Miss her so much. Have fun learning to sew in memory of your mother.

  • You will love it. And I second whoever said the repair people will love it. Metal! No plastic! I have a Domestic machine my mom had until she won a Necchi at the IA State Fair.It’s about 60 yrs old. I love it. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but I have done more with it that you would ever believe. When I got a new machine for our daughter as a gift, my heart did wonder if I should get one, too. Glad I’ve got my old faithful…..

  • Just a beautiful, touching tribute. Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories.

  • I had a similar experience with my mother’s set of knitting needles that resided for decades in a rainbow fabric covered case and then suddenly were missing, never to be found again. Then one day many years later there they were on ebay and home to me they came.

  • So many things wrapped up in that smell. I inherited a well-maintained Singer 401A from my great-grandmother, and the smell it gives off when I open it up makes me miss her and feel so close to her. I just started messing in the sewing bins and trying to make actual things with it, so I’m interested to see what you do with yours! Good luck!

  • Have one exactly like it, bought with proceeds from my summer job after my first year of college. It still works well and I have never felt the need to upgrade. I remember at the time asking my uncle if he thought this was a poor use of my money. He replied, absolutely not, it was an investment. Good choice. Good buy – mine cost a lot more than $40.

  • I have my grandmother’s “new” elna from 1985. Still solid as a rock. Her handwriting in the manual with the shortcuts for buttonholes comforts me every time I use it. She and my mother are gone but what and how they taught me will never leave me. I will teach my daughter, then she will know that she comes from a long line of capable creative and confident women who sewed a lot of things out of eternal polyester. I can’t use my mom’s 1971 green Bernina. It still scares the bejezus out of me just like when I was a kid. Plus I want to sew, not curse and weep because I can’t holler for her help anymore.

  • Excellent. It’s never a bad thing to buy a Singer that is Made in USA. I now have 2 Featherweights — one was my Mom’s and the other I bought on ebay.
    We occasionally find them at yard sales too, but it is harder now that there are so many quilters using these to take to quilting bees.

  • I have my mother’s Singer. Early in her marriage – I’m guessing 1949 or 1950 – the collars on my dad’s white shirts were wearing, so my mom did some magic where she removed them and turned them around and sewed them back together, all by hand. Her father was so impressed that he went out and bought her this machine. It is not fancy, but it still works like a charm – when I actually use it. Let’s face it: I’m a knitter, not a seamstress. But I love having this link to our family’s past.

  • You will LOVE having an older mechanical machine. They are not subject to crashing if the lights flicker and they don’t have expensive “motherboards” that will eventually need replacing. I have 3 mechanical machines, a relatively new mechanical Bernina and a couple older mechanical machines from the late 1960’s as back up! The older ones sew a better, more straight stitch than the newer Bernina. All those bells and whistles on the expensive electronic machines are nice, but those machines will never last like a mechanical machine does. What a lovely story! Brought back memories of my mom’s blue kenmore!

  • Enjoy! I have my grandmother’s black Singer. She gave it to me in 1969 when I got married. Among her other strengths, she was an ‘alteration’s lady’ at the Meier and Franks department store in Portland OR. In the evenings, and on days off, she sewed for herself, and the family. During WW2 she was a “Rosie the Riveter’ in the Vancouver WA shipyards. She got extra pay because she knew about pattern design and how to cut out a pattern! I still use her machine as well as my fancy new one. It is always reliable, and sounds wonderful. I often think of her when I sew.

  • My Mom passed away 10 years ago and I don’t think I’ve missed her quite as much as I do at this moment.

  • Those old sewing machines are the best! Thanks for the lovely story. **

  • Ann, I have that same machine,Such a great machine! My Daddy bought it for me. I learned on my Aunt’s treadle ( I still have, which was my great- grandmothers) After they realized I was serious with this sewing thing . I made all my clothes, house things, my first daughters clothes. Then it died a sad death… A small child put pins in the slot, I turned it on and the pins broke the gears off. So we bought another, by then all plastic, lasted 2 years….then I went to a Bernina, Still going strong after 29 years. My Stylist is still in my attic… I never could part with it. As they say “they don’t make’em like that any more” Enjoy!!

  • What a deep reservoir of memories and mothering you tapped today, in this hauntingly beautiful post. I know you are a writer, Ann, but it gets hidden sometimes behind all the funny and technical posts about Life as A Knitter. Not today.

    The line where you describe cranking it up yanked me clean back into my own Mom-related sewing memories: I can hear the foot pedal and that bobbin methodically rolling along as she sewed for hours. Dresses, cheerleading uniforms, her own clothes, and of course, the quilts.

    The color is perfect –may I start a fight I mean ladylike debate by declaring this shade of blue possibly the official MDK color? Wow you walked into the zone today. Thanks for the story. Thanks to all our moms who sewed! And all you moms who still do!

  • Best sweetest happiest post. So glad for you. It’s so pretty.

    For all the sewers out there, I encourage you to try an industrial machine. Yes, they’re heavy, they sit in a bed of machine oil, and take up some space. They never skip a stitch or knot up the bobbin, the feed is ultra smooth and even. Bobbins wind while sewing. Modern motors are noiseless and the speed adjustable. Even if you get an old machine a new Servo motor can be installed for about $100.

    But, I still love all my old home machines. My fave – The Grasshopper.

  • I have an Olivetti typewriter in just that color. (I bought it at a yard sale. I didn’t haggle.) My mother also had a Necchi. I’m not sure what happened to it. I found a portable machine at her house, but I haven’t used it yet. It’s my backup backup machine, in case my main machine and my backup machine and my other machine all fail at once. Or if I need four sewing machines simultaneously. (This hasn’t happened yet, but I think Scouts will be involved.) I gave my sister an old thrift store find after I oiled it. Not fancy, but works for hems, curtains, etc. I walked into my mom’s house yesterday, and there was a container of Singer sewing machine oil in the kitchen. The price (30 cents) was printed on the can. How old is it? Why is it in the kitchen?

  • I learned to sew on my mom’s 1950s Necchi machine. Oh my, that thing was a beast! Thanks for the memories!

  • My Mom’s was a Kenmore machine in a table. The machine folded down and I can still remember the feeling of folding open the top of the table, opening the front door to support the folded out top, and pulling the machine up out of the table to get ready to sew. She said it was never the same after I made three Frostline down jacket kits (for my cousin, my sister and myself) – my jacket is still in my closet nearly 40 years later! I love my “new” (OK, 15 years old at least) Husqvarna Viking machine which I chose over the Bernina everyone told me to buy. I look forward to using it a lot more when I retire in another 5 years! Thank you for bringing up all of those memories.

  • I still have mine that is remarkably very similar to this. I got mine in 1972 or 73. It still works, work horse is right. I have it at the lake cottage for the occasional mending job.

  • I love the fact that MULTIPLE sewing machine repairmen have said don’t get rid of your older machine, you’ll regret it! (My 1980’s vintage Singer has that lovely machine oil smell too!)

  • I have a 348 still working. I would love to find another for parts. What a workhorse of a machine! Congrats, you’ve made a wise purchase.

  • Mother? Maybe somebody was swearing at their sewing machine?

  • What a great story! I’m glad you found each other.
    I realize when I’m gone, my boys might get rid of all my stuff. But I take solace in the fact that someone might see something I owned and fall in love with it, just as I did. Happy sewing!

  • What a lovely, deeply felt story. Thank you.

  • That does it. You have struck a chord. I must get my daughter sewing, and possibly my sons as well. I am blessed that my mom is well and active and she taught me to sew. She sewed my wedding gown, my sister’s wedding gown, prom dresses, leisure suits (it was the 70s). I have a newish machine, but I also have a blue 70’s Singer that I could never get proper tension on. I am going to get that baby serviced and get my kids going. Do you think I can knit at the same time?

    And I am just amazed at the response you have evoked.

  • I use my mother-in-law’s old singer, and I have inherited my grandmother’s serger but I can’t do the emotional or mechanical tasks of learning it yet. This was moving post, I’m glad you found a machine.

  • A few days ago I had never seen a sewing machine like this (different continent) but now they are popping up all over the place: http://www.blueq.com/shop/item/229-productId.125847887_229-catId.117440558.html

    I have no association with them at all, just couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Happy sewing!

  • I found an old book and learned to make English mesh lace recently!

  • Need help have a singer 348 it starts to lower needle then you hear a clunk and needle stops, you can rotate hand wheel in reverse and it will rise back up. It doesn’t make the full rotation of the needle for sewing. I inherited this machine so no more information on it.

Travel Alert:

Join us for a festive dinner at Vogue Knitting Live Chicago featuring Clara Parkes and us! Friday, March 9. Details here.