Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Vintage Singer Bender



1952 Singer BZ 9-8
Long Bobbin, Bullet Bobbin, 
or Shuttle Machine



Before anyone comments, I fully admit this post proves why I need to be concerned with balance. I tend to be an all or nothing kind of gal, and sewing tangents are my specialty! I don't believe I'd have confessed to the extent of my obsession or this bender with these gorgeous, vintage gals if it wasn't for Sandra at mmm! Quilts hinting in her latest, crazy must-read post WWJD, about our escapades through text messaging (outing me to the world), but now I shall do so without as much guilt. 


Let me say publicly how grateful I am for the many quilty friends who have entered my life these past few years. Just writing that makes me break into a deep laugh and wide smile. You are the best! I love you all. I cannot tell you how much each of you has changed my life. Thank you, thank you!

I Blame My Husband and Craigslist

 I recently mentioned to my husband it would be fun to find a vintage sewing machine sometime. I swear to you it was just an offhand comment. I had no idea what people were talking about when they went all gaga about these machines. I thought one would be a nice showpiece. That's it!

He's an avid buyer of used items, and turned me on to Craigslist spotting the first one in a junk shop in a neighboring town. You might have read the story on my 15-91 Rescue & Revitalization. I was happy. I was content. 


1956 Singer Featherweight

Then just days later a  weekend away was spent cooped up in the rain. 3" fell one day. Dear Husband was back to searching Craigslist. He found about a dozen vintage machines, and one Featherweight nearby. We had nothing to do, and more rain expected. Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and Rebecca at Cheeky Cognoscenti--(please check her blog for all the posts under "sewing machines", and be spell bound!), and of course, Sandra all said those were the best old machines to find. I had not yet caught on to the featherweight craze, but we made an appointment with the owners to see the machine.

When I opened the lid, and saw how it all fit in so compactly I was in awe. I'm almost embarrassed to tell you I loved smell of the machine oil and aged machine, but I literally breathed it in. Can you tell where this was going? She was going home with me for sure.


This machine had everything accessory-wise with her including a buttonholer. She was clean, and well cared for, and probably took her first airplane ride to come home. 

Once home, we figured out that she had some serious tension problems, and they were never corrected. There were even bills from the shop in the case along with the original bill of sale for more than $145! Dear husband helped me take apart the tension dial several times, and using the manual we reset it. Back then they expected the owner to be able to do some work on their own. I was amazed. On top of that, the bobbin tension took a whole half turn of the screw to fix. Those of you who are comfortable adjusting your bobbin tension will know that's a huge difference. It had been cranked down, but together it was finally fixed. She sewed beautifully!


Social Security Number
for Identification

The only disappointment in this machine was where the owner had etched her social security number into both the machine and the handle. I was mystified why, but my husband said that was not unusual during those days to mark something valuable. I've asked several other people about it, and only one said they were aware of people doing it. I guarantee this was before identity fraud, and this person is deceased. 


The BZ 9-8: This 1952 Machine Found Me 

I phoned a friend just to catch up, and she said she'd seen where I was working on old Singers. She had one in her closet I could have. I assured her I would clean it up for her, and send it back home so she could use it. 


Bentwood Case

The case fits over the top of the neatly packed machine that is attached to a base, and the locking mechanism is engaged. You are able to carry the machine by the case handle then. The Singer keys we tried did not work, but a narrow, flat tipped screw driver opened and closed the mechanism. I am still not secure about carrying it that way, though, considering its weight.


This machine just needed a good cleaning, oiling and grease job. I didn't even get the chance to wipe her down before I wanted to explore how to use her.


Imagine my surprise when I looked for the round bobbin!

I know many of you have experience with old machines, but I had none until a few weeks ago. I'd never seen this type of bobbin, but research in the old Singer manuals available online helped me determine it was called a bullet, long bobbin, or shuttle bobbin. Lizzie Lenard has some wonderful YouTube videos about these vintage gals, and their proper usage. I felt like an expert when I wound my first bobbin, and began to sew.


The accessory box is integrated into the base, and is full of attachments. I have yet to investigate any.


The underside is more difficult to oil on this machine, and would benefit from a felt pad in this bottom. You can see it's entirely mechanical vs. current machines. It was a totally different machine to sew on, but I was bowled over by the accuracy. My dear friend accepted my offer to buy her, and was glad to get it out of her closet.



Another Featherweight: 1955


This machine has a story of deep attachments, and I think was destined to find me. It's another episode of my husband on Craigslist, a wild ride to West Virginia with an accomplice, and a pinkie promise to love it forever before I was even allowed to look in the case. I came home with the same feeling as one has when they adopted a rescue dog. 


These cases were beautifully crafted!
The foot pedals clicked into 
the lid by sliding sideways.


The original can of Singer oil and tube of grease were still in the case. The manual and attachments were all there, and this case had the original keys.


The Surprise

Rarely have I seen a 'white' Featherweight around here, but yesterday one popped up north of us. Technically it's Pale Turquoise, but is commonly called white. It has a greenish cast, most definitely, but is more of a ghostly white.


1968/1969 221K Featherweight

I should probably just give you Craigslist tips here more than anything. It's a great place to find what you're looking for, but above all--Be Safe.Tell someone where you're going, and the contact information or phone number of who you're meeting. Travel with someone, if possible. Meet in a public place. Do not go out to the parking lot to see the machine in their car, but have them bring it in. I like McDonald's, and there are usually electric plugs so you can tell if it runs. I always, always ask for a receipt for my protection. I print the Craigslist ad before I leave, and have the seller write the paid amount on it. It protects you, and is a good business practice.



This machine had less in the way of accessories--none, and more in the way of needs. A new cord, a belt, etc. She ran, and seemed quite smooth for a gal a year younger than me. 
In spite of her blemishes, and she has a few, she had some special qualities.

One was her color. White was delicate, and fresh, and feminine. Two, she was smaller overall, and felt a bit lighter, though I haven't weighed her. Three, she was owned by a quilter. The young man who sold her to me said this quilter immigrated in 1912 from Italy, and was his grandmother.



Four: She had a British accent. Lovely!



The case has had some hard knocks, but I've seen others this vintage also missing the handle. It was made to protect the machine inside, and did its job well.

"Wrap It Up, Dear!"

This little whirlwind has left me rattled, and I would love to say to you, "I'm done! I have all I'll ever want/need/find," but I would surely be lying. Besides these machines, I've had at least 5 or more other machines that arrived looking for love and care. 4 have been fixed, but the one that threw sparks will need some help from my husband. I would never have known how much I loved the fixing end of things before I dug into this! It's such a kick!

I won't even say that I am collecting because I won't pretend I need more stuff. I am keeping these machines safe and well until they are cared for by someone else in a few decades. In the meantime, I will use them all at one time or another, and I totally get this thing about vintage machines! No one will have to explain it to me again.

Now back to it.
Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.


11 comments:

  1. now when I saw you had gone on a bender, I was initially worried. But no, its an antique bender. I love how all these old machines are rescued. Unfortunately I am way not mechanical enough to know what to do with an old machine, though I can appreciate their beauty

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  2. Well, I confess to being vintage Singer machines owner and rescuer. I have sewn on many of them, and now know what I like best for what I do. The Singer 301 is my go-to machine for piecing and if I do FMQ for small projects. I have the 401 for zigzagsI have a Featherweight for classes- and if I ever find a 222 Featherweight- it will replace this one. I have serviced about 20 Featherweights and every one is a little different. I really need(!) a free arm machine like the 222. I rescued a Spartan with case that I want to pass along, a 99 that I turned into a handcrank to teach the grandkids sewing, a potted motor 15 and a belted 15. I use the potted motor 15 for bindings and sewing through heavy stuff, like pockets on a tote bag. If I lived closer, I would give your machines the spa treatment. I do this for people around here as a way to keep my comfort quilts going- sometimes they donate fabric, Amazon cards for the books I include or money for batting rolls. I would love to gift some of the rescued machines. I have drawn the line at shuttle bobbins, though.

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  3. I have a white Featherweight 1961 and love it. Great finds!

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  4. Um, you've come a long way and took a short time to get there...seems like yesterday that you didn't even know what a 15 was when you already had one of your very own. Now you have a collection! And you told me you didn't have room;-) I am a bit envious of your white 221. That's at the top of my wish list.

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  5. I am on a search for a featherweight that I can rescue. I know where to get one that is serviced and ready to go, but I want the satisfaction of making one of these little beauties come back to life.

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  6. I am past fixing these myself after trying twice, now I am only waiting for a handcrank Singer to find me and join the family. My local quilt shop is owned by a husband and wife team, he fixes the machines, old and new, and she sells them and teaches.

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  7. I am like you. Love those vintage machines. I have a "white" Featherweight. I have been told that the color is called "celery". I have never purchased anything on Craig's list. Your tips are valuable information.

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  8. Mwahahaha!!! Your machines are beautiful. Yes, the white one is a little smaller and lighter. I believe the fold up extension table on that one is smaller than on the black machines. Now you just need to get one of the beige Featherweights. And one of the blackside Featherweights. And one from the year you were born. And one with a World's Fair badge... It's a slippery slope!

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  9. I think you might have found a new path ;)

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  10. I brought a vintage singer machine last year off ebay. Turned out the lady was just down the road from me! It's 75 years old and looks and works beautifully! I'm completely with you about the smell, old and musty but in a good way! I'm not one for fixing them up but I can see myself collecting them! Every so often I log on and see what's out there! 😊

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  11. What a treat of a post. I didn't know there were white machines, lovely. I have one Singer, a 99k handcrank, but I would love a featherweight. The number of people I have spoke to who say a relative had died and they ended up putting it in the tip, shocking.

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It's always enlightening to hear your thoughts or suggestions. I try to respond in a timely manner, but admit life is very full here! I will return comments online if it's of general interest, but offline if a personal response is more appropriate. Give me a shout with anything urgent at julie@pinkdoxies.com, and I'll try to get right back with you. While I believe in free speech, spamming will not be tolerated, and as in all our interactions, speak kindly.

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Julie