My Sewing Machine Collection

IMG_3488 [800x600]My love affair with old sewing machines is a new hobby for me.  It started out because I was looking for a way to make a few dollars and our government suddenly banned the use of those disposable, plastic grocery bags that you used to get for free at the supermarket.    It seemed to me, people would still need grocery bags and I could make some that would be durable and great value and the world would beat a path to my door and I’d suddenly have a job and an income.  But I’d need a machine.

IMG_3487 [800x600]My partner Jan has a modern sewing machine that makes lots of fancy stitches just by selecting them on a dial.  I’m not allowed near Jan’s machine!  she knows me fairly well and has watched me dismantle perfectly good bits of technology, just to see how they work!  I remembered though, that I had an old electric Singer machine, gathering dust out in the barn.  I brought it into the house, evicted the spiders and various other insect wildlife that had moved in and poked an oil can into the many little holes in the frame … and fired her up.  Thus began my journey to becoming the grocery bag mogul of the free world ….. and a real love affair with old sewing machines.  The grocery bag thing hasn’t quite worked out.  I’ve only sold a few bags and I reckon I made perhaps $1 per hour on the few that I did sell.  I can’t understand that because they honestly are very good quality, very cheap and they do the intended job very well.  Jan and I have been using the same set of these bags for all of our grocery shopping for the past year and they aren’t showing any signs whatever of wearing out or failing in any way.  So there must be more to manufacturing success than simply making a good product and selling it cheaply.  When I get around to it, I’ll create a how-to on the grocery bags, for those who like to do for themselves.

Singer 15 ParlourThe great part of the whole exercise for me, was the discovery of these fascinating machines.  The junk yards and dumps of the world are just crammed with the remains of countless millions of sewing machines, both ancient and modern.  Every other house seems to have one rusting away out in the shed, or gathering dust in the attic.  They’re like wonderful pieces of living history.  There are many people from all walks of life and all over the world who have begun collecting and restoring old sewing machines and there are already quite a few websites devoted to the hobby.

Some people just seem to collect these machines and do little or nothing with them.  So I read of people who have literally hundreds of machines under their house or taking up all their storage in the shed.  The joy for them seems to be in the acquisition.   Other collectors are very selective in what they collect.  Some go to endless trouble to restore old machines to their former glory and still others consider such restoration efforts to be a form of vandalism.  My collecting, thus far, has been in pursuit of machines that I can actually use.  But I prefer those sturdy old all metal machines that most people are familiar with and the human powered ones hold a particular fascination for me.

model 29So far, I’ve acquired about a dozen machines, not because I want to possess a huge number of them or to start my own museum …. but because its been a learning exercise in just what machines best suit my  needs.  And I do use my machines.  I’m not much interested in cosmetic restoration but I get a lot of satisfaction in resurrecting these old timers and in getting them back to their functional best.  This is generally far easier than you might imagine.  If you are like me and fascinated by machinery, you would really enjoy messing around with sewing machines.  Being a relatively new and still uncommon hobby, collecting sewing machines is something you can get into for minimal expense.  While a few of the older and more notable machines do sell for real money, the vast majority are common and can be picked up for peanuts at the moment.  When I’m satisfied that I have a sound knowledge of which machines are likely to suit my long term needs, I reckon I’ll get rid of most of the others.  But when I sit at my 1930’s treadle machine and sew on it, it feels for all the world like I’ve stepped back in time and its a thoroughly enchanting feeling.  Not sure which of my machines I would actually be willing to part with!

Although there seems to be quite a few blokes who are involved in the hobby of collecting sewing machines, I don’t see much written by them about actually sewing.  I suspect that this is simply a symptom of our sexual stereotyping within society and some men aren’t comfortable admitting that they enjoy a pastime that is traditionally associated with the fairer sex.  Personally, I get a kick out of being able to take up a pair of trousers or repairing a frayed shirt collar.  Times are changing and brothers are doin’ it for themselves!  In a world where people are becoming more and more dependent upon ‘the system’; where people are rewarded for specializing and in doing more and more of less and less, so many basic life skills are simply disappearing from mainstream society.  I regard sewing as just one more of those endangered life skills and I see little to choose between (say) sewing, carpentry and metal welding.  They are all just valuable life skills to have.  Each makes its own demands on our capabilities and each provides its own satisfactions.  I’d rather spend my hours pursuing the acquisition of new skills, than be wasting my life sitting in front of the idiot box, soaking up the deep intellectual stimulation of the latest sit-com or reality tv show.

More machines from my collection featured HERE

Cheers,

Andrew Caddle  2014-09-29

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                                     A LITTLE HELP PLEASE

If you find anything on my website that you feel is interesting, amusing or thought-provoking, please consider sharing it on your social media site or emailing it to a friend. Links are provided at the bottom of each post to facilitate this.  Your help in getting my work out into the world will be very much appreciated.

Thank you, Andrew.

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8 thoughts on “My Sewing Machine Collection

  1. I have the singer 1904 pictured first, model 66, love it and hope to be using it soon. My friend is working on it for me.

    • Hello Louise and thanks for your message. My model 66 (in the photo) is from a batch that were manufactured from 1918. It’s amazing to think that this model was produced pretty much unaltered for fifty years. It’s a testament to the level of perfection which had already been achieved in these machines by 1900. Imagine buying a new Ford that was almost identical to a 1966 model! Alex Askerov has is a wonderful source of Singer info and has an article on the ’66 here: http://www.sewalot.com/singer%2066.htm

      I hope your machine will meet your needs and that it will bring you a lot of pleasure. I have stopped collecting old sewing machines for now, having acquired all of the models that I was interested in. About the only ones that would tempt me to part with cash now would be a couple of hand crank 66’s with sphinx and redeye decals. There’s a beautiful photo of a latter example in Mr Askerov’s article.

      If I can be of any help to you whatever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and thanks again for visiting my blog.

      Warm regards,

      Andrew.

  2. Love your site to bits. Also have your accidental love of sewing machines. I’m a sewist and buy them to sew on BUT like you I need to pull them apart and make them work again. They just fill me with awe for their beautiful engineering and simplicity, the strength they have and the integral beauty of each one (even the ugly ones) Will be following you for sure.

    • Thank you, Huni, for making my day! It is so rarely that I receive any feedback on my site and even more rare for it to be so encouraging. I’m sincerely grateful.

      The sewing machine collecting can easily get out of hand and I reckon I’ll need a larger house soon! I have in mind to photograph more of mine to display on the blog but you know how it is ….. so many machines …. so little time! Always seem to be either chasing a new one or working on the ones that I already have.

      Thanks again for your contact.

      Kind regards,

      Andrew

  3. I just love this blog it\’s incredible it\’s Ozzie and great to see fellow sewing machine enthusiasts around Australia, I\’m in a Rockingham in Western Australia, your machines are beautiful and in such great condition, great tips, great pics, great stuff, thanks for your site, great to see.
    Rae

    • Hello again Rae,

      While I do have a few really beautiful machines, I have far more which aren’t. The fact is, the rougher ones are my favorites. All my machines are kept in as perfect a mechanical order as I can manage but the really perfect ones have a serious downside for me. I use my machines all the time and I prefer the ones that have done it tough, simply because I don’t have to be always fearful that I’ll put a scratch on them or damage them in any way. The joy for me is in using them, rather than in displaying.

      Cheers,

      Andrew.

  4. Hello, I’m from Adelaide and have recently retired so, I can indulge my love for things that are beautiful, useful and don’t need electricity and that means old sewing machines (here in South Oz we need to get away from power usage because we so often don’t have any ha ha). I’d love to compare notes now and then. Would you do that?

    • Hello Ann, I attempted to send you an email response to this post. Certainly happy to share sewing machine or other information with any visitors to my website. Thanks for you message and good luck with the retirement.

      Kind regards,

      Andrew.

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