I learned to sew (or rather I learned how to use a sewing machine) on my mother’s 1960s era Singer. I made some shapeless elastic waist skirts, “Jams” style shorts, and a few odds and ends in my youth. During college, I borrowed the machine to make hats to sell at raves. You heard me, raves – and the real kind back in the day, illegal and last minute and fun as a bucket of monkeys. I loved her machine – it was metal and solid and felt like well, a machine in the masculine sense. A few years later I acquired my first vintage machine at my favorite thrift store for something like $6.99.
I’ve had it for nearly 20 years and it is the machine I use most often, however I just had to put it on a time-out due to a tension issue that springs up after an unpredictable amount of time (sometimes after 3 days of use, sometimes after year or so) and it seems to always fix itself as long as I don’t use it for a month or so.
A partial repair tag still clings to the handle – perhaps this tension issue gave the previous owner troubles as well… After finding this machine, I was on the lookout for more. Why? I think I figured it would be nice to have the same one to use for parts if need be, I wanted one with zigzag and other stitch functions, and I just really fell in love with solid things made of metal that could last lifetimes – yes, the plural form. I hate everything about the objects of our disposable society these days, but then again, obsolete, near-obsolete, and old timey things weigh a ton and are a pain in the ass to move. But after a few years, I had amassed a collection of around 15 sewing machines, not to mention several typewriters and boxes of cameras and film equipment. I didn’t move much then and used much of the equipment as furniture in my cramped apartment, but eventually most of it had to go. Since I used the sewing machines on a fairly regular basis, I kept a half dozen of them or so.
This is the back-up machine for when the pink Atlas is being temperamental. It too came from a thrift store and I gasped when I opened the box – I’d never seen one that looked so like an automobile of the same era and I loved the deep green. It sews strongly and steadily but the needle needs to be coaxed into the fabric in just the right way each time that I tend to get a little impatient with it. Its best use is for sewing long seams or quilting.
This is the prettiest and the oldest of my current machines and it works just fine. The bobbin is a little fiddly to work with so I don’t like to change it as often. When I had more space (and when I will hopefully have more space again) I’d leave it set up with thread in the opposite color of what I was using in the other machine if I needed to hop on it for something else. I believe this was originally a treadle machine and motorized later, so I have intentions of trying to turn this back into a manual machine, but I’d rather find a treadle machine for a reasonable price (and I could fit in my car or have delivered) instead. It is also in a re-purposed Morse case that is annoyingly without a lid, so at the very least, I need a new lid/container for it.
My brother found this lovely Singer for me, but it’s probably been a decade ago… I have it nearby because I intend to try to find a couple of missing parts for it, but haven’t done much searching around for them yet. Ironically, it also came with the manual and a few extra tools, so someone was meticulous about keeping it all together only up to a certain point. This one is also a more compact “portable” model, so it would be convenient to get it up and running as soon as possible. I’m also slightly afraid to plug in anything old, so the first time I like to be prepared in case of an inferno.
And then I have perhaps two more? I’m a little nervous that I can’t find them at the moment, but I believe that they could be in storage along with the other third of our stuff. Hopefully I didn’t get rid of them in the frustration of the move. One of them is another Atlas similar to my old stand-by that I found left in the trash on the curb in my old neighborhood. Its cord was cut, perhaps indicating that the motor was blown or that it needs to be re-wired so I can use it for parts, or get it up and running again. I believe the other machine is another Singer with a bad motor?
The machines I had but sold years ago included a couple of really old ones that had been motorized but weren’t very functional, I believe yet another Atlas, a less attractive 70s machine, and a blue White that I still can’t understand to this day why I got rid of it – it had a zigzag stitch, WTF? But I think I thought I’d find another…
Some days I’m a little envious of others with the fancy-schmancy machines that will practically stitch up a cup of coffee or an offspring but mostly I love my hunky metal beasts and will continue to do so…