Friday, 9 January 2015

Sewing machines old and new

I just love all things vintage but sewing machines and all that goes with them has to be at the top of the list of my favourite interests.  Having learnt to sew on my mother's treadle sewing machine I have strong memories of the sound and motion of the treadle and the sleek black body with the gold embellishments.

I loved to sew at home and watching my mother as she laid and and cut fabric with or without patterns; slicing through the fabric with confidence and ease.  School sewing was a different matter - taking a whole term to make a horrible pleated tennis skirt under the sharp gaze of our domestic science teacher. I hated it.     My brother also enjoyed making small items on this machine, especially when we were preparing our puppets for the marionette theatre we had made.

Even though modern machines are amazing with their digital stich libraries and ease of use, they definitely are not built with the same  strength and beauty as their ancestors.  I do have the modern variety (embellishing machines, embroidery machines, industrial straight stitch machines - seven in total) without which I would be lost, but the old ones are so beautiful and full of history.  Sometimes it is just wonderful to slow right down and enjoy the hand cranked 16K from 1910 or the treadle from 1922.

Imagine my delight when Alan and I visited a large local charity shop yesterday and found a great old girl waiting to be adopted!

Made in 1922, this Singer is a model 15k80 made in Clydebank.  It is in very good condition but I have to replace the missing bobbin cover and the rubber wheel for the bobbin winding mechanism.  It has a lovely cabinet and wonder if this could have been a 'drawing cabinet' - the inside is lined with green baize and the finish of the wood good with only a few signs of wear at the front. 

It just fits nicely into my home studio after I cleared the pile of 'stuff' which was filling the space earlier. Oiled, polished and caressed she works perfectly and I have had fun treadling!  Once I get the bobbin plate and the rubber wheel,  I intend to use it to sew the vintage style dresses for the bears, rabbits and other animals that I make.

Another of my vintage machines this one dates back to 1910 and is a 16k.  Again in lovely condition, it sews well.  I aim to use this one with the ruffling attachment.....well at least until my arm gets tired.  That is the only problem - I do tend to suffer from problems with neck, arm shoulder etc which is not surprising when I consider the work I make them do.
Bearmaking is hard work especially if it is full time!

However, Amber is not at all impressed and probably a little jealous of the new member of the family!!!


  1. Those lovely old treadles are amazing - real pieces of quality wood furniture. I so wish Mother hadn't consigned hers/Grandma's to the scrap yard.

    I have had several modern machines over the years but really fancy a good old Singer hand machine. If I'm honest, my new overlocker is a terrifying monster - it has been sitting under the little-better-than-a-cheap-carrier-bag cover glowering at me for months. I shall have to buy a book to learn how to use it - after 50 years of using machines I need a 'how to' book! (Why do modern machines come with a vinyl dust cover instead of a sturdy protective one?)

  2. I think over the 50 years we have been channelled to think that 'old is bad' - get a new whatever, that old thing should be thrown out. Those old machines were meant to last and stitch perfectly weren't they? I love the feeling of 'slowing down' at the weekend and making items without worry about the time. Now, that overlocker is feeling very sad and neglected!!! Do get it out and play with it - it is really brilliant to be able to overlock seams. Just be careful not to snap the threads - it is that bit that I hate. Good luck and tell him not to glower at you.