The Old Girl, part III

“How the dickens do you thread this thing?”

That was our first challenge after establishing that yes indeed, she ran just fine. A search on the Singer site provided a free pdf download of the instructions we needed for our vintage 15- (“fifteen straight”) machine, and with a bit of tinkering, we sorted it out. A run to the fabric store for more bobbins, fresh needles and a touch up with the old can of oil still (thankfully) kept in her tip-out drawer, and we were ready.

She does have some gumption in her, that’s for sure. The foot pedal also is rigged to be a knee pedal, hiding under the table out of sight. I’d never sewn this way before and found it a bit of a treat. With a foot pedal I always feel like I’m driving a car, but with the knee pedal it felt more like the machine and I were connected somehow. We fussed about for an hour or so, getting the feel of the machine, thread tension, speed, etc.

Jacob took to the machine easily, which wasn’t too surprising considering the machines in his own workshop consist of mainly old Singers and other vintage industrial machines. It was odd to see his lanky frame seated at such a tiny table, but I was glad it was him and not me ramming the fabric through to make my purses. Between Jacob and the Singer, there was plenty of muscle to get the job done, and quickly. When all you need is a straight stitch, an old solid metal 15- certainly does the job.

Jacob and I continued to use the Old Girl through the summer and into September, shortly before I got the call that my mother didn’t have long to live and I’d better get home as soon as possible. After that, she was packed into a moving van with everything we hadn’t yet thrown away and taken to California, where she languished in storage for over a year. But there was always the thought of her in the back of my mind, nagging me to get on with it and get her back into use. In December I hauled her out to The Sewing Machine Shop in Walnut Creek, California, for a tune up. After an impatient two week wait (longer than usual due to the holidays), I brought her home, clean and happy.

Sadly, she now once again sits piled high with books. That will change once we’re able to move things around and have enough space to get some work done. I haven’t sewn much in the past year, and while my sister moved my mother’s fabric stash into storage, I have plans to get it back and start playing with it. While Mom’s 1990’s Bernina has its charms, I still prefer the older machines for their simplicity and stamina.

If you have an vintage machine you’d like to share, let me know in the comments section, or email me. I will be featuring more machines as I come across them. Two more are already waiting for their moment to shine, as soon as I sort out their background information. Eventually I’d like to compile them into a book, so do let me know if you have a particularly special gem of your own, especially if there is a story attached.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. lahondaknitter says:

    I have a Sears Kenmore model 158 that is at least 40 years old. I bought it used.

    It was basically stored for a number of years, but when I was laid off my job last year, I started sewing quite a bit. It is one heck of a workhorse and even though it occasionally gives me hell, for the most part it just keeps going and going and going.

    I love my old Kenmore.

  2. Thanks for sharing! It’s great to hear about old machines that keep on going. Busy hands can be a rather comforting distraction when life throws us curve balls.

  3. Ceri says:

    This has been a really interesting set of posts, I stumbled across it as I recently picked up a similar machine in Notting Hill, London, for £10. I’m a designer and want to get a handle on the fabric side of the business and a vintage Singer is the perfect machine to start with.

    Just got to learn how to thread the thing!

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