Thursday, March 21, 2013

Meet: My Mother's Old Black Singer . . .

. . . which is now my old black Singer.

I always assumed Mom received this sewing machine from my father as a wedding gift when they married in 1938, but I never asked and she never said.  I recently discovered that Mom's Singer was made in 1941.  Now I really wish I'd asked her how she came to have it!

I learned to sew on this machine when I was 8 or 9 years old.  I don't remember my mom teaching me how to use it but I remember having free rein with it.  I didn't learn to sew with patterns until I was in my teens but as a kid I remember sewing straight-seam items -- blankets, bags -- for my dolls.  After I graduated from college, Mom and Dad delivered the sewing machine to my apartment.  I was grateful to have it. 

The machine sews forward and backward; has adjustable stitch lengths; and sews leather, cotton, and other fabrics.  But it's not thrilled with polyester thread, for some reason.  I usually sew with cotton, cotton/poly, or silk and it sew beautifully.  It has a drop-in bobbin case and a knee pedal.  Knee pedals are so much easier to use than foot pedals, at least for me.  I can get much better control with a knee pedal.  (I've always had a lead foot.)

The machine came to me with a box of attachments, a manual, and a buttonholer.  I've never been able to get the attachments to work as the manual says they should but I keep them in their box and perhaps some day someone will show me how to use them.  I use the manual whenever I have to oil the machine or fix the tension.  It has sweet little detailed drawings telling where and how to oil.

The buttonholer came in this ovalish spaceship sort of plastic box.  I never liked that box.  I found a rectangular, dark green box with a buttonholer at the thrift store and bought it on the off chance it would work with Mom's macine.  It did.  And it had a 5/8" cam which Mom's didn't.  I was getting ready to switch the buttonholer and get rid of the spaceship box when my daughters realized what I had in mind.  They both balked:  "But I love that box!  That's the best thing about the sewing machine," they both said.  (Neither of them sews much....)  So I've kept the spaceship box.

My mother's old black Singer is almost the only machine I've ever used.  I once borrowed a machine while in college.  It had a foot pedal that I could never control and I think the only sewing I did was a quick repair.  I have my mom's second sewing machine, the one she got after she gave me the old black Singer.  It is a Kenmore which I don't like at all.  I also have a slant-needle Featherweight Singer that I bought at an auction for $2.50.  It sews as well as Mom's Singer but the bobbin is not so easy to put in.  I've used it a few times but only when I've had to sew away from home or when the old black Singer needed a tune-up.  And I recently bought the Singer Red Eye which does not yet sew.

My mother's old black Singer is the only sewing machine I've ever wanted.  If it dies before I do, I don't know what I'll do.... 

I'm linking this post to Meet: My Machine! blog hop, hosted by Stacey at The Tilted Quilt and Erin at Sew at Home Mummy.  Thanks, Stacey and Erin.

Happy sewing!


  1. What a beautiful story and a lovely machine! Thanks for linking up and sharing about it.

  2. I Love your Singer. It reminds me a lot of my Mom's old machine. The aqua "space ship" box is a collectable in itself. It looks like it was made of bakelite plastic. I don't know a lot about the whys, but I do know that folks collect stuff made of that material. And I agree about the knee pedal. I wish new machines came with them. When I heard that mine had a knee lifter I thought it worked the "gas" and got excited. Turns out that it lifts the pressure foot. Thanks so much for sharing, Nancy.

  3. I have a Singer just like yours, but mine has been converted to a hand crank sewing machine. I do all of my piecing on it and love it! I also have a Redeye, but it is also converted to a hand crank! LOL

  4. Don't worry that your Singer 201 will die before you. That most likely will not happen since that machine is built to last. Follow the oiling and greasing of the machine and motor as stated in manual. And if need be, replace any old electrical wires for safety. There are many folks with tutorials on maintenance and repairs on the vintage Singers for you to follow too. If you have to clean the bobbin area on your Singer 201, here is the link to one person's excellent tutorial that I followed to clean my Singer 201. The Singer 201s are the sweetest of the vintage Singers. Enjoy!

  5. Hello Nancy,

    I have really enjoyed reading about your machine. I found my Singer 201K treadle in a second hand furniture shop earlier this month and was thrilled. They are wonderful machines. Also I have the machine learnt to sew on, my mum's 28K hand machine.

    Vintage machines are the best. I have a house full of machines that have outlived their owners, and I am quite happy for them to outlive me.

    Love from England,

  6. Love the old machine. What a great machine to learn on.

  7. Hi Nancy!
    Is that a 201?
    It's BEAUTIFUL! I love it. And I love that you use it. Old machines are amazing, aren't they? So simple in structure - that's why they're still kickin'!
    I loved your post! Thanks SO much for linking up with Stacey and I, I really enjoyed reading about your beauty!

  8. Love this story. So glad you use and care for such a wonderful sewing machine. I no longer have a sewing machine but, at one time, I had a Singer Sewing Machine with a hand control. I used to find it hard to use so I would get my sister to control the handle, whilst I did the sewing!!! Gallivanta

    1. You and your sister must have gotten along really well, Gallivanta, to be able to coordinate sewing like that. It makes me think of driving a car with two people -- one to steer and one to push the gas pedal. Of course, two at the sewing machine would not be as dangerous as two driving a car! Thanks for sharing the memory.

  9. What's the value of one of these I just came across one today

  10. What's the value of this I just got one today

  11. What's the value of one of these I just came across one today

    1. Gosh, I don't have a clue the value of one of these old machines these days. There's a vintage sewing machine group on facebook. Someone there might be able to give you an idea.


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