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August 16, 2011

The Beauty of Vintage Sewing – My 1950 Singer Sewing Experience

By Andrea

“They don’t make ’em like they used to” – as much as I don’t like to normally bust out cliches, this one really rings true in this case.    While today’s sewing machines seem to favour function over form, mid-century machines favoured both.  Your sewing machine cabinet was considered another piece of decor, that you’d want to match to your furniture.  This Singer ad from 1950 shows the many choices you had in cabinets to coordinate with any type of mid-century decor.

Singer sewing machine ad from 1950

I recently had the pleasure of sewing on a 1950 Singer lock-stitch sewing machine (this one belonged to my husband’s grandmother, however I frequently see machines of this vintage at garage sales and antique stores).    This one is a portable (although I think they kind of used that term loosely back in the day – this sucker is HEAVY!), so no pretty cabinet to look at, but the machine itself is gorgeous to look at on it’s own:

I personally love all of the gold detailing on the machine, as well as the metalwork which has a real filigree look to it:

Did you know that it’s really easy to determine exactly what year vintage Singers are from?  The machines all have a serial number – this machine’s was on the front, right side:

From there, there are many websites that have the information on how to date your Singer via serial number. This one has both the dating information and how to tell where it was manufactured – this is how I was able to tell that this one was manufactured in 1950, in Clydebank, Scotland.

After discerning that, I was ready to take this bad boy for a spin!  On the right side of the machine, there was an accessory box, which had a pile of attachments, as well as the manual, so I had no troubles getting it threaded and ready to go.

Definitely a much more compact manual than what you would find today, but these machines didn’t have as many bells and whistles, so the manual’s still got everything you need to know.

Beautiful stitching!  This machine sewed as well today as it did back in 1950.

How about you, readers?  Do any of you remember your mothers or grandmothers sewing on vintage machines like these, or maybe you have one of your own?  Also, stay tuned for part two, where I will showcase some of the many attachments for vintage Singers, and what you can do with them.

To see what I was working on, check out the latest installment of What We’re Working On, at Sew What? Fabrics!

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10 Responses to The Beauty of Vintage Sewing – My 1950 Singer Sewing Experience

  1. Becky Reply

    August 16, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I do not have a vintage machine, but do have a wonderful little sewing notions cabinet that my grandfather, an accomplished furniture maker, made for my aunt. It has 3 small drawers, sections that swing out to the sides with built-in dowels for holding spools of thread, and the lid opens to a shallow storage space. My 10yo daughter is a budding seamstress, it holds all her supplies. : )

  2. Betty Crafter Reply

    August 16, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I love this post! I am a vintage sewing machine fanatic and borderline collector 🙂 My favorite machine to sew on is my Singer 301a in blonde vintage cabinet. I also love my pink Jaguar, but mostly for looks. The 301a is a complete joy to sew on. I can’t wait for your post on attachments – I admit the only attachments I regularly use are my zig zagger and buttonholer, but I have a whole box of attachments I have no idea how to use. Will you also consider a post on finishing with an older machine? Like zig zagger vs. serger vs. seam tape? And doing blind hems? I have lots of questions 🙂

  3. Andrea Reply

    August 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Becky – I am jealous! I absolutely love handmade sewing cabinets, it sounds like your daughter has inherited a beautiful sewing cabinet. And yay for young sewers, too! 🙂

    Betty – Your pink Jaguar sounds totally sweet! I am personally still kicking myself on not going back soon enough to pick up a pink and purple Brother that I saw in the window of a flea market. I can definitely do up a post on finishing with an older machine! Keep sending your questions my way 🙂

  4. RetroRuth Reply

    August 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Such a pretty machine, Andrea! Wow!

  5. Sara in AZ Reply

    August 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Wow, yes it is a really beautiful sewing machine! I have never sewn on a machine like this, but maybe one day!

  6. Queen of Fifty Cents Reply

    August 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    I have a fabbo Singer 201 that I found at a yard sale for five bucks. I actually bought it for the Art Deco cabinet it’s in, intending to put the machine I already had in the cabinet. My other machine didn’t fit, so before I got rid of it I plugged in the Singer to see what it would do – and have never looked back. This baby will sew ANYTHING. It’s gear driven rather than belt driven, so a seam with multiple layers of upholstery fabric are a piece of cake. If you ever see one of these, grab it!

  7. Andrea Reply

    August 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Sara & Ruth – I couldn’t agree more, these old machines are so pretty!

    Queen of Fifty Cents – Do you have a picture of your machine in it’s art deco cabinet? I’d love to see it, as I am a big fan of art deco. if you’ve got a picture, please send it to sewwhatfabrics@gmail.com, I’d love to see it!

  8. sablemable Reply

    August 16, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Andreaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!! My mom had a late 50s Kenmore, top of the line. I learned how to sew on it and it had all the bells and whistles. My brother is storing it and it hasn’t been used in decades. Think I’ll take it back home with me. The machine came with a cherry stained cabinet and matching chair.

  9. Andrea Reply

    August 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Saaaaaaable! You should definitely take that machine back home with you, I am sure it’s dying to be used – and that it still sews as well today as it did back then!

  10. Pingback: What We’re Working On – Pin Up PJ Pants! — Sew What?

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