This is what started it all! Late last summer I wandered into a junk sale at the Moravian Church down the street and spotted this lovely sewing machine for $25. I had been considering sewing for awhile but didn’t know where to begin. I checked into a few things like classes and sewing machines just to get an idea of what it would take to get started. But I still hadn’t arrived at a suitable entree into it yet. Until I spotted this vintage Singer. It was in perfect working order, complete with sewing table and knee pedal, and all in excellent condition. After considering its vintage novelty and the fact that it was $25, I figured I would snap it up now to start.
So here it is. It’s a treadle-style sewing machine from the 1920′s. In cast iron black enamel with gold filigree detail and engraving and most all of its original parts! Even the motor and light are original. It only does a single straight stitch in various lengths. It came in a lovely sewing table with a knee-operated pedal instead of the traditional foot pedal. I’m told attachments can be added to expand the stitch selection. Something I’ll have to check into further. At $25 it was still a luxury for me though and I still hadn’t found a suitable way for me to begin learning. Only this year did I begin seriously getting in gear. This summer I managed to get it serviced and began looking into beginner sewing classes and information.
Although it’s the stylish little sewing machine that keeps on trucking, these vintage sewing machines have a few drawbacks. Since it only does a single style of stitch – Straight Stitch, sewing on this type of machine requires different sewing techniques. The most basic of stitches any sewer needs include – Straight Stitch, Zigzag Stitch, and Back Stitch. Not having the last 2 stitches requires a few modifications in your sewing technique. Mainly, the addition of Pinking Shears to seal raw edges and learning to pivot fabric neatly and sew back manually in order to Back Stitch. Overall, very doable it just takes some practice and is more time consuming. Lastly, most modern sewing machines have a removable bed for sewing tubular pieces. Very handy when trying to sew the edge of a pant leg for example. As you can see the old Singer does not. So sewing around tubes again requires some practice and patience. But a bonus is, you’ll be learning sewing techniques rather than what order to push the buttons on your sewing machine!
Looking back I’m glad I went for it. I feel like it was a great economical choice for a beginner like myself who is focusing more on sewing techniques on beginning level projects. Perhaps after I have perfected the sewing fundamentals and graduated to more advanced sewing a modern sewing machine with extra bells and whistles might be in order. But for now it’s novelty suits its purpose!
Some further details about my Singer Treadle from the Singer Co. website. It’s chock full of wonderful info including operating manuals from the 1900s!
Model No. 66
Style: Singer Treadle
Location: Elizabeth, NJ, USA
Date Manufactured: April 19, 1927
No. Alotted: 50,000
Purchased: Summer 2009
Serial and Model Info
Treadle Model No. 66 Operating Manual
Just For Fun: My Singer Certificate [pdf]
More About Vintage Singer Sewing Machines
If your machine is one of the earlier ones, the model number must be looked up based on the serial number. Go to the serial number page above and see the list of Series under “Download complete Register (Serial) Number lists with model numbers and dates”. These lists will tell you what model number your machine is! Mine is the “AB Series”, No. 599765, Model No. 66.
Then go to the product manual page, type in your model number, and you will likely be able to order your manual or download it for free! These old manuals are extremely detailed and informational, you should be able to learn to operate and even service your own machine using them! Note: The graphics are terribly muddy so deciphering detail diagrams are difficult.
Date your machine by Serial Number: http://www.singerco.com/support/serial_numbers.html
Find a product or operating manual by Model Number: http://www.singerco.com/support/model_number.html
Product Manuals: http://www.singerco.com/accessories/manuals.html
Sewing Machine Maintenance and Repair
I had some trouble finding a place to take this machine for servicing. Just to have it oiled up, the pedaling re-wired, and a general check-up. I ended up going to a place in Queens called Sew Right where Harvey talked me into an $80 servicing fee + parts. Pretty pricey considering all they do is check to make sure everything is ok (and it usually is with these old machines) and put a few drops of oil in some key places. However, this is really my first sewing machine and I had no idea where to go so I tried this place. Here are a list of places around the city I found for repairs and maintenance:
223-20 Union Tpke.
Bayside, Queens, NY 11364
There is also another place in Manhattan that I have to get the info for.
78-35B Springfield Blvd.
Bayside, NY 11364
It is right off of Union Turnpike. And the sign says “Pfaff Creative Sewing Center”! This place is 1 block from Sew Right. And they specialize in Singer, Janome, and Pfaff.
Additional Information and How-To’s
How to thread a Singer Treadle sewing machine. [Video]
How to wind a bobbin on a Singer Treadle sewing machine. [Video]
How to load the bobbin on a Singer Treadle sewing machine. [Video]
Check out this nice post at Sew Fast And Easy on vintage machines!
Until about 1900, if you wanted a pretty new dress, you probably made it yourself or—if you had the money—you hired a seamstress to do it for you. By the turn of the century, readymade clothing was starting to become more popular, but sewing was still holding its own. From 1911- 1925, fabric sales were almost the same as readymade clothing. In 1926, a survey found that two-thirds of working class women and three-fourths of business class women spent up to 6 hours a week sewing or mending. But, by 1929, the overall American sales of sewing machines took a significant drop. This was widely attributed to the “Flapper” movement, and women’s migration away from traditional homemaker roles. In 1927, the Simplicity Pattern Company was formed. Their low price “15 cent” pattern became an instant hit, establishing them as major force in the industry. In 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began.
–Historical data taken from Sew Retro: A Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution by Judi Ketteler