The lovely Vera has been called up for active duty.

She is 75 years old and still dependable.  ‘Vera’ is my Singer 127 treadle sewing machine, manufactured in the early 1940s and originally purchased in Indiana in February 1945.  Some of the masks I’m making require several colors of thread.  It’s a total drag to rethread the machine multiple times for one mask batch.  So, I’ve called upon my older machines.  For now, Vera is handling the ecru thread color.

Vera has the rare black ‘crinkle’ finish, and blackside metal plates.  The lamp isn’t sitting on the cabinet for decoration; it’s a necessity.  There’s no light on the machine since it isn’t electrified.

Vera the Machine

Here’s a closer view of her crinkle finish and black metal plates.  The plainness of the finish and lack of embellishments says ‘wartime’ to me. Vera closeup

Vera crinkle finish

In the cabinet there’s a well-stocked drawer of presser feet, an old metal seam gauge, needle threaders, and a good supply of bobbins.  (It is a ‘vibrating shuttle’ machine, which uses long, narrow bobbins.)

Vera equipment drawer

Another drawer holds the original purchase receipt, and user manual.  Her original purchase price was $105.75.

Vera paperwork drawer--redact

The handwritten note on back of the receipt says:

  • 5 year guarantee
  • 5 year free service
  • Free sewing courseVera warranty

In another drawer is the all-important sharp pointed tool for piercing a new treadle belt.  It serves as a bodkin, too. Belt tool

Sewing with a treadle machine is like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.  Your feet work the pedal, while the right hand is on the hand wheel, to be the starter, speed controller, and ’emergency brake’.  That leaves only the left hand to maneuver the fabric.  When it all gets going, the sound and feel is mesmerizing.

More about the Singer 127: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singer_Model_27_and_127

A blog post about the crinkle finish and blackside metal.  https://www.singersewinginfo.co.uk/blackside/

And I’ll be darned, look who else was channeling Vera this week.

This machine is a sewing ambassador.

There I was, browsing through my then-fave antique furniture dealer/restorer, telling myself I didn’t need any more furniture.  Then I came upon this.  Machine in cover

The hand crank turned easily, and all the parts appeared to be there.  The price seemed low.  I’d never worked with an antique machine, and my curiosity quickly won out.  Decals

This was more than 15 years ago.  The internet was still new enough that personal web pages consisted of a lot of plain text and a few little photos.  But lucky me, a few people had done DIY pages on bringing an old Singer back to life.  All it took for this one was some sewing machine oil, and careful cleaning of the head, to not ruin the decals.  A universal bobbin and needle were all the parts I needed.  Soon it was sewing beautiful stitches on a test scrap.  Crank view

The decals are the “Lotus Petal” design.  The serial number is stamped on the base, in nice big numbers.  There is a little storage compartment under the hand wheel, for holding attachments, etc.  Serial number and equipment cupboard

I love looking in the storage compartments of old machines.  They are like opening a time capsule.  There were a few specialty feet in this compartment.  I confess, I still haven’t used them.  I need to make that a future fun project.  special feet

There was also an online database of Singer serial numbers, that quickly told me this machine is a Model 66k; one of 75,000 manufactured in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1917.  Handcrank machine history w heading

Around the same time I got the machine, I acquired a little stack of scrappy stars in another antiques shop.  In keeping with their vintage status, I decided to assemble them into a quilt top using my ‘new’ hand crank sewing machine.  Then, I taught myself to hand-quilt.  Then I took the finished quilt into the shop where I’d bought the stars.  The owner got choked up, and told me her mom had made the stars.  She loved how I framed them in red and muslin.  Quilt

The sewing machine currently resides in my sitting room, on top of a treadle base.  There is another antique sewing machine folded up in the treadle base.  This first purchase and all of the wonderful experiences that came from it, caused me to buy more old Singers and put them back into ‘service’.  My feeling is that they need to be re-appreciated, and used occasionally.  And that’s a duty I thoroughly enjoy.  base-pup rsr

This hand-crank machine’s most recent use was at a workshop where outdoors enthusiasts were learning to make custom straps with buckles, adjusting slides, and other embellishments, for camping, hiking, and biking.  A small bit of straight stitching on the straps was optional.  This sewing machine being non-electric, low-tech, and virtually unbreakable, was not threatening to people who had never sewed, or who’d had a bad first sewing experience.  Everyone opted to take a turn with it.  I think I (or more likely, the machine) successfully recruited some sewing newbies that day.