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  1. #1
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    My other Classic / Vintage Obsession... Sewing Machines.

    It seems that I am not the only one here who takes great pleasure in tracking down and acquiring vintage sewing machines (and derailing other threads) and although most of us just take it for granted that a sewing machine sews, they are really a marvel of precision engineering and design, and the good ones will last just as long as a vintage Raleigh with nothing more than regular cleaning and oiling.

    Historically, they did as much for women as the bicycle as it freed them to have more leisure time (like bicycle riding) and pursue other employment options, prior to the introduction of home sewing machines it took 14 hours to make a shirt and 10 hours to make a dress by hand... because of this most people only owned a few outfits and there was no industrial scale manufacturing of clothing.

    The sewing machine made it possible to make a shirt or a dress in under 2 hours and the mass production techniques used by those early giants were copied by other emerging and existing industries and created others to support what was one of the largest industries before bicycles and automobiles.

    I learned to sew when I was very young as my mother was a seamstress and made a good deal of our clothing, she recycled the hand me downs, and clothes got mended until they were only good for being used as patches or quilt pieces.

    I just inherited my mom's last good machine which she stopped using over 10 years ago, she passed away several years ago at the age of 83 and even after she became a nurse she continued to sew as it was her favourite activity... this is a late 1960's Bernina and these are considered to be some of the very best machines ever made.



    What most people think of when they think of classic sewing machines... this is a 1948 Singer (model 99k) that I just gave to my great niece who is 9 years old. It is not as ornate as some early models but was one of the most popular and successful machines ever made as it was just that good and it was compact which made it a good portable.





    My Kenmore is tucked under the table... it is almost 40 years old and is an exemplary Japanese made machine that will easily sew the canvas and light leather I picked up for making bicycle gear.

    Nice thing about these older machines is that they just work and work very well without the aid of computers, complex electronics, and as of yet they have only made it as far as using aluminium and to my knowledge there are no carbon fibre machines and they shift manually with a mix of indexed and friction.

  2. #2
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    I'm not sure if I'm adding much value to your post 65'r, but that's never stopped me before!

    My paternal grandfather came here from Poland with no English and a 3rd grade education. Had he not emigrated he almost certainly would have been killed, like the rest of the family. He became a tailor, and his Singer sewing machine provided him an opportunity to survive in his newly adopted country. Many pairs of my childhood pants were hemmed by my grandfather on his 195something Singer sewing machine, and I used to watch him use it in fascination.

    His Singer sewing machine, bought used from a neighbor and paid for over a few years, helped him put two kids through college and provided a comfortable retirement. So yes, I like vintage sewing machines and have been waiting to find one exactly like my grandfather's.

  3. #3
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
    I'm not sure if I'm adding much value to your post 65'r, but that's never stopped me before!

    My paternal grandfather came here from Poland with no English and a 3rd grade education. Had he not emigrated he almost certainly would have been killed, like the rest of the family. He became a tailor, and his Singer sewing machine provided him an opportunity to survive in his newly adopted country. Many pairs of my childhood pants were hemmed by my grandfather on his 195something Singer sewing machine, and I used to watch him use it in fascination.

    His Singer sewing machine, bought used from a neighbor and paid for over a few years, helped him put two kids through college and provided a comfortable retirement. So yes, I like vintage sewing machines and have been waiting to find one exactly like my grandfather's.
    My 1958 Singer (403a)... purchased 5 years ago with everything one would ever want from an elderly guy who bought it when it was a few years old.


  4. #4
    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    Are you running a sweatshop making seat bags? I love those little sewing tables I wish I had tried to get my mothers.

    Bianchis '87 Sport SX, '90 Proto, '90 Campione del Fausto Giamondi Specialisma Italiano Mundo, '91 Boarala 'cross, '93 Project 3, '86 Volpe, '97 Ti Megatube, , '90 something Vento 603,

    Others but still loved,; '80 RIGI, '80 Batavus Professional, '87 Cornelo, '09 Motobecane SOLD, '?? Jane Doe (still on the drawing board), '90ish Haro Escape

  5. #5
    Fat Guy on a Little Bike KonAaron Snake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    My 1958 Singer (403a)... purchased 5 years ago with everything one would ever want from an elderly guy who bought it when it was a few years old.

    That's awfully similar to one of the ones he used 65r...I remember the colors being a little different and I think it was probably a few years older.

  6. #6
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bianchigirll View Post
    Are you running a sweatshop making seat bags? I love those little sewing tables I wish I had tried to get my mothers.
    My Kenmore model 1931 and my Singer Serger, no proper sweatshop can be without one of these.


  7. #7
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
    That's awfully similar to one of the ones he used 65r...I remember the colors being a little different and I think it was probably a few years older.
    This is a 400 series machine, he may have had the earlier 300 series and they came in a few colours... people consider these to be among the best machines Singer ever made and were the last really good Singer machines as their quality dropped in the late 60's and they could not compete with the Japanese, who made a better machine for less money.

    Any of these will last a lifetime, they are nearly commercial quality although they are not designed to handle really heavy materials.

  8. #8
    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    My dad used to have one like that '48 for his upholstery/reupholstering business. It would sew through almost anything.
    Bianchis '87 Sport SX, '90 Proto, '90 Campione del Fausto Giamondi Specialisma Italiano Mundo, '91 Boarala 'cross, '93 Project 3, '86 Volpe, '97 Ti Megatube, , '90 something Vento 603,

    Others but still loved,; '80 RIGI, '80 Batavus Professional, '87 Cornelo, '09 Motobecane SOLD, '?? Jane Doe (still on the drawing board), '90ish Haro Escape

  9. #9
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I picked this up last weekend for the case it came in and the machine was a bonus... a 1961 Singer 328 which holds a place in Canadian history as the machine that was used to design the first Canadian flag.

    I paid $21.00 and it required a new belt and some spool pins which cost less than $10.00, although this was an entry level machine it is gained a reputation as a solid machine that can handle most things and is still better than any of the entry level plastic machines sold at the x marts of the world.




  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    What can you tell me about mine? I found it in the trash, not really into sewing machines. Just antiques in general. Thanks









    Semper fi

  11. #11
    Senior Member
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    sorry about the upside down pics. I don't know why photobucket does that to my cell phone pics.
    Semper fi

  12. #12
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bianchigirll View Post
    My dad used to have one like that '48 for his upholstery/reupholstering business. It would sew through almost anything.
    He may have had one of these or another full size gear driven machine... the Singer 201 was the best machine Singer ever made and these were used to sew the interiors on Rolls Royce automobiles... despite it being designated as a home machine it was widely used by professionals because the stitch quality is insanely good.

    It will sew through anything.



    The Singer 15-91... note the tension control on the left instead of on the front. This was probably one of the most successful models Singer ever made as it would even sew through tin cans, not that you'd want to make a habit of that.

    Last edited by Sixty Fiver; 12-28-14 at 12:08 PM.

  13. #13
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sloar View Post
    sorry about the upside down pics. I don't know why photobucket does that to my cell phone pics.
    That is one of those Japanese machines that is a clone of a Singer model 15... perhaps the most successful machine that Singer ever made.

    It was probably made in the early 1950's, tracing the actual manufacturer or date can be difficult as these were made by many companies and re-badged for other stores/ companies.

  14. #14
    Senior Member JAG410's Avatar
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    I inherited an incredible Brother QC-1000 machine from my mother, and learned how to do the basics on it. This machine can do embroidery, lettering, and all sorts of fancy decorative stitches. It's really fun and easy to use, but I was worried about breaking it with the projects I'd rather do, like bike bags and leather work. From some internet research, a few forums suggested a Singer 201 or a Pfaff 130, and well I found a Pfaff first. It was in rough shape, so I took it apart and cleaned/polished everything I could, and put it back together. It sews beautifully now, although it's certainly not as user friendly as the Brother machine. This comparison between modern and vintage machines correlates perfectly to bicycles.

    On the left, the carbon fiber, electronic shifting, wonder bike. On the right, a lugged steel, friction shifting, workhorse:



    1951 Pfaff 130 after restoration:


  15. #15
    Fast+Bulbous thinktubes's Avatar
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    In spite of having an electric model, my mother used a treadle model similar to the one pictured well into the 1970s.


  16. #16
    On Your Right cb400bill's Avatar
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    My mom was a stay at home mom from the 50's thru the 80's. She made herself some money as a seamstress. She was the offsite alterations department for a couple local clothing stores and also made and altered clothing for her own customers. She always had a Singer machine until they went cheapo and then she switched to Husqvarna. A few years ago she gave us this old Model 775 Touch & Sew II. It needs some work, but if you are patient, you can get stuff done.


  17. #17
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I was with 65'er when we tried to derail the last thread

    We have LOTS of mechanical stuff around here, much of it dating from early in the last century. We like things that can be repaired and don't require electronic bits to keep running.

    I would have to check the store room, but I think there are 9 sewing machines. I know there is a treadle powered Mason waiting it's turn to be restored. My daily user is the Singer Rocketeer 500a, we have several others. The Rocketeer was picked up at an estate sale for $35 including the cabinet and a whole box of extras. The story we were told was this machine had been the lady's backup machine, in case her other one needed service or broke. Apparently she did a fair bit of sewing for herself and others. The machine shows almost no wear anywhere on it. My other heavily used machine is a mid 50's Singer Slant needle 404 that I inherited from my mom. She sewed clothes and liturgical vestments on it, eventually making enough money to spring for a Viking, then a Husqvarana.

    I will have to chase down pictures of the rest when I get the chance.

    Aaron


    Singer 500a Rocketeer


    Singer 404
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  18. #18
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    Being my late mothers and Canadian, I keep a Singer Style-O-Matic 328 threaded and on the ready.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    He may have had one of these or another full size gear driven machine... the Singer 201 was the best machine Singer ever made and these were used to sew the interiors on Rolls Royce automobiles... despite it being designated as a home machine it was widely used by professionals because the stitch quality is insanely good.

    It will sew through anything.



    The Singer 15-91... note the tension control on the left instead of on the front. This was probably one of the most successful models Singer ever made as it would even sew through tin cans, not that you'd want to make a habit of that.

    Fantastic!
    My wife needs to come visit you!! hahaha,... (she never sticks with it when she gets the bug to sew,...)

  20. #20
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    One of my wife's main hobbies is sewing clothes and quilts.
    Vintage machines can really be pieces of art.
    1909 Singer Treadle 15 2.jpg1909 Singer Treadle 15 6.jpg1909 Test 2.jpg
    My wife's 1909 Singer Treadle machine. A piece of art.

    1950 Singer Feather Weight 221 3.jpg
    Her 1950 Singer Feather Weight

    1940 White Majestic 2.jpg
    1940 White Majestic...

    Sewing Cabinet 2 - Joanne.jpgSewing Cabinet 4 - Joanne.jpg
    Quarter sawn oak cabinet I made her a few years back.

  21. #21
    Senior Member poprad's Avatar
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    Awesome thread...can't believe I'm the first to post that.
    I live in search of finest examples of the 3 B's: Bikes, Beans (coffee), and Beer

  22. #22
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    Not many American made items can claim the longevity of the products from Singer & Co. Started about the time of the Civil War.
    Here is my model 201. During and after restoration. The clear coat was shot, so I had to apply new decals. Cost me 20 bucks, with its original mahogany cabinet. Runs great.

    Like vintage bikes, vintage sewing machines appeal to some of us who appreciate well-made mechanical things.







    Last edited by rootboy; 12-28-14 at 07:46 PM.

  23. #23
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    I have my paternal grandmother's 1959 Bel-Air portable zig zag machine. I am going to have to figure out what is "off", something with the tension. If I recall correctly it was a Japanese copy of a Singer model. MY mom and grandmother bought one each. My Mom traded her's in on a Singer Golden Touch n' Sew in 1970 or so, you could only buy it with a table, and the machine could swing away for storage, it's claim to fame was automatic buttonholes, also had some interchangeable cams for decorative stitching.
    She really regretted trading in the Bel-Air.

    I have now a Pfaff 545 H3, the big bobbin model, a true workhorse. Straight stitch only though.

  24. #24
    I got 99 projects BluesDaddy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    I was with 65'er when we tried to derail the last thread

    We have LOTS of mechanical stuff around here, much of it dating from early in the last century. We like things that can be repaired and don't require electronic bits to keep running.

    I would have to check the store room, but I think there are 9 sewing machines. I know there is a treadle powered Mason waiting it's turn to be restored. My daily user is the Singer Rocketeer 500a, we have several others. The Rocketeer was picked up at an estate sale for $35 including the cabinet and a whole box of extras. The story we were told was this machine had been the lady's backup machine, in case her other one needed service or broke. Apparently she did a fair bit of sewing for herself and others. The machine shows almost no wear anywhere on it. My other heavily used machine is a mid 50's Singer Slant needle 404 that I inherited from my mom. She sewed clothes and liturgical vestments on it, eventually making enough money to spring for a Viking, then a Husqvarana.

    I will have to chase down pictures of the rest when I get the chance.

    Aaron


    Singer 500a Rocketeer


    Singer 404
    We have one that looks a lot like that 404. It came from my wife's grandmother. I've done some hemming and repairs with it. My daughter used it to make a quilt for a school project. I grew up watching my mom sew all sorts of things, from curtains to pajamas to stuffed dolls. Sewing is a great skill and hobby.

  25. #25
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rootboy View Post
    Not many American made items can claim the longevity of the products from Singer & Co. Started about the time of the Civil War.
    Here is my model 201. During and after restoration. The clear coat was shot, so I had to apply new decals. Cost me 20 bucks, with its original mahogany cabinet. Runs great.
    Beautiful work there, as always.

    Elias Howe invented the modern sewing machine, Isaac Singer improved on that design and after some lawsuits from Howe were settled they became partners and pretty much took over the sewing world, there production was so integrated they also raised the trees that they made their cabinets and cases from so employed many carpenters and labourers. Like Schwinn and Raleigh they controlled pretty much every aspect of their business and sold the production rights to other companies before their patents expired.

    There are some hand built machines out there that are like hand built bicycles, they are exceedingly rare and much sought after and a small works of functional art... now I see a good number of people customizing old machines with new paint and powder too.

    I just finished servicing a later model Kenmore for a young friend who wishes to sew, this is a Janome built machine which runs and stitches well and is very easy to use... this came with the same 25 year warranty as my 1976 Kenmore and this was probably a good idea as it is not nearly as robust, there is a lot of plastic where just about all of my machines have nicely machined gears and there were a lot of small springs which can cause issues when they fatigue.

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