On Sewing Machines

Singer Sewing Machine Model 99

Singer Model 99

Vintage Mechanical Stitchery

Now I am willing to venture that every family has had one of these intricate delights at one time or another, usually by default, rarely by design.

Take my first treadle. A Singer Model 15, pre WWII vintage and a hand-me-down from my maternal grandmother. I found myself the somewhat perplexed owner of this front room plant stand since no one really wanted it but neither had anyone the heart to throw it in the skip.

Additionally, I have it upon reliable opinion the Singer did its part in feeding half the family through those dark, dismal years and made a useful contribution to the war effort.

A plant stand it became. Closer inspection during a moment of idle fancy revealed an extraordinary well-made machine. A little worse for wear in the cosmetic details but still ready to spring into instant fabric repairative action. My interest in mechanical stitchery awoke.

Research on the old internet returned my first major disappointment. My Singer was worthless. Why? Well Singer made more than 80 million of the little wonders. There were probably hundreds of sewing machine manufacturers worldwide of which, Singer is arguably the best known. Before the days of cheap imported clothing you would need a pattern, sewing machine and an account at your local drapers store to produce your required fashion item. Every household who could afford one had a machine.

The fact is, unless you have a rare or very early machine, your example is very likely worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. Don’t believe me? Search eBay for their current auction offerings. Scour the “”For Sale” Ads in your local paper or “Bargain Pages”. Chances are you will find a vintage treadle in your area for the equivalent of twenty pounds or so.

Worthless they maybe but they are still impressive examples of mass produced engineering. Another reason why so many seem to have survived. So well made, one would have to vigorously apply the attentions of a lump hammer to do them any major damage. I wonder how modern plastic-fantastic models will weather the ravages of time and heavy-handed treatment.

At least one example should be in the portfolio of any Frugal Suburbanite. Get one now, whilst the getting is still good. A treadle for preference, a hand crank model will suffice, electric if you must. Learn to sew, repair your clothes, develop a useful trade-able skill. It’s all part of the Frugal Lifestyle.


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