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Chaly

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Reply with quote  #1 
We all started somewhere.  What was your first machine?  What triggered you to start collecting?  What's your SMAD story?  And what does your SMAD future look like?
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JoeJr

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Reply with quote  #2 
It all started a couple of years ago with a White Model 65 in a local thrift shop.  It was marked as "Free" and "untested".  Because the cloth covered wiring looked frayed they didn't want to try plugging it in, so I picked it up and fixed the wiring, and it's a great machine.  I've been given 3 trash-pick machines, just because people know I like them, and last night I actually repaired a machine for someone else, for the first time (an electronic Kenmore, fortunately all I had to do was remove some plastic to find the missing feed dog screw and then put it back together).  I don't actually sew much, just household repairs and things like that, but I love the mechanical aspects of the machines, and very often the older cabinets and tables make nice pieces of furniture.  Because of my budget I have to stick with low cost acquisitions, freebies on Craigslist, thrift shops, things like that, but it keeps me busy and in the garage.  I'm at (only) 22 machines.IMG_0252.jpg 
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WI Lori

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Reply with quote  #3 
May I blame MacyBaby? :) I met her at HonesteadingToday, on the quilt forum, and there would also be chatter about the great vintage sewing machines. I found a 301 for half price ($3), and she mentioned the QB vsm forum for answers to my questions. Then I learned about the 401....and the 201, which took me a few years to find, and VSS. Then it all became one Singer slippery slope.
The best part is the best, cool, helpful people I've met on my way to the SMAD ward!

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redmadder

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Reply with quote  #4 
My brother doesn't exactly collect things but people unload stuff on him.  My first vintage machine is the 1941 15 I use for hours every day.  He gave it to me back in 2008 and it sat in my storage shed a couple of years.  Once I cleaned and oiled it, I was in love.  The only repair in 11 years was the uptake spring.  She still sings.  Unlike the numerous plastic cheaps I've worn out over the years.
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Kitcarlson

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Reply with quote  #5 
If our case of SMAD, we had several machines without addiction. With purchase of another house in nearby town to help facilitate day care of grandchild #6. A condition for perfect storm (an empty house). In setting up house for quilting, things like work tables, and machine cabinet .... 3yrs pass,two full houses, 60 plus machines, (not counting modern), trying to stop.
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Jim/Steelsewing

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I blame my parents. One child really should have been enough, but noooo, they had to go for two and on that February day of infamy my sister entered the world. Decades later she called me one late spring day to grieve over the demise of her ancient White 77g. A week or two later I called her back and asked if she was ready for a new puppy... and she sent me a short list of vintage machine models she'd like to find and try. I brought seven machines to her on Thanksgiving that year. I hadn't spent a hundred bucks. Granted, they all needed care and we set up a triage in my parent's garage. That was an unexpectedly enjoyable week. She kept some and gave some away and we continued to find, restore, and move old sewing machines in and out of the garage. Then came the day when she left for her yearly two week Ren-fair-like event. Her car turned the corner and I wandered over to the computer to check local listings and sure enough, there was a curbside rescue only minutes away. I hopped in the car and by the time I got there it had begun raining.

Perhaps a foretelling omen... I loaded up a soaking wet and mysterious to me Singer into the bay of the Rav4 while thunder and lightening and sheets of rain pounded overhead. I hauled it home, stuck it in the garage. Dried it off with a towel the best I could and finally found a serial number. The machine was frozen, all the wiring was shot, and the little table needed completely redone. Up until that time, I'd get a machine running and hand it off and Sis would make it sew. She wasn't there, so I had to do it all and It took two weeks before it tossed a super nice stitch with all new wiring and a redone cabinet. That was my first 101 and it challenged my skills like no other old machine, and I was hooked.

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My adventures with VSM's: http://steelsewing.blogspot.com
*QuiltnNan and asshat may be synonymous...
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pgf

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Reply with quote  #7 
I remember being fascinated by my mother's old black Singer.  I think it was probably a type 40 cabinet, and, knowing what I know now, and piecing together fragments of memories, it was likely a 66.  Decals, but not fancy -- probably paper-clip.  She traded it in for a 237 in '68 or so (when I was 10), and at some point taught me to sew.  After college I owned a machine on and off for a long time -- oddball gifts or yard sale models mostly.  Nothing special.

Then in '98 I needed to adapt a BMW motorcycle tank bag to my Suzuki.  The thick multi-layer leather base that stays with the bike when the bag is zipped off/on needed a 3" clearance hole for the gas cap cut into it, and the new loose edges needed to be sewn together.  I cut the hole, and took it to a local cobbler since there was no way whatever machine I owned at the time could do the sewing.

When I went to pick it up, I asked what kind of machine I'd need to do that sort of thing myself.  He pointed across at what I've since learned was a 29-4, where his wife was sitting doing a repair.

Cobbler: "You mean that sort of thing?" 
Me: "Uh...  maybe?" 
Cobbler: "Well, that's what my wife used to do your stitching." 
Me, impressed by the bulk and industrial-age look of the 29-4: "Well okay, yeah, like that." 
Cobbler: "I happen to have another one of those in my cellar at home.  Interested?"
Me: "Wow!"  Then, reality creeps in: "Gee...   how much would something like that cost?" 
He paused and thought about it, and said "Would $75 be okay?" 
I controlled myself, and forced myself to pause too.  "....  Sure.  That would be fine."

Several days later he brought it to the shop, gave me a quick lesson, and we loaded it in my car.  So that was my first truly old machine.  But it wasn't SMAD.  Not yet.  It was just a machine.

I eventually inherited my mother's 237.  And a few years ago I'd picked up some other plastic piece of junk at a rummage sale, and someone on a local mailing list had given away a mint 201-2 in a Queen Anne cabinet, and along with the 237 and the 29-4, I posted a picture of my tiny set of machines on Facebook.  And made a joke about "my collection".

And here's where the SMAD finally hit:  a few days later a friend dropped me a line and asked if I was interested in his grandmother's 1916 7-drawer 66 treadle, given to her by her husband as a wedding present in 1918.  I was very flattered  to be offered such a family heirloom, and tried to push back, but he just wanted it out of the house.  It needed a fairly major restoration, which brought me to VSS for lots of good advice.  And I was hooked.

As you've probably noticed, I'm still here.  :-)   As of a couple of days ago I'm up to 34 machines.

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socoso

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Reply with quote  #8 
I started with a Adler 189A some time late last year. I have 33 or so now, some very nice and some for parts. I really should get rid of some but I don't try very hard to do that.
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Jim/Steelsewing

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Reply with quote  #9 
*note: lost count of how many machines are here. I would count them, but I don't have that kind of time. I will say that 60 is manageable, and I want manageable back. That would be nice.
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It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
There is grace within forgiveness, but it's so hard for me to find - Ben Gibbard
My adventures with VSM's: http://steelsewing.blogspot.com
*QuiltnNan and asshat may be synonymous...
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Cari-in-Oly

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Reply with quote  #10 
My whole life up until about 10 or 11 years ago I had only ever used one sewing machine(with the exception of the Viking I used in high school home ec), my Moms beige 1964 Brother Prestige. After I got a new bells and whistles machine I gave that Brother to my oldest DD when she finally showed an interest in sewing. The new machine didn't hold a candle to that old Brother and I missed it. A few weeks later I found a blue Brother in a thrift store that was just like moms machine so I bought it. A week or so later I found another one. A week or so after that I walked past an old Singer in a thrift store and it just called out to me and I had to buy it. That was my 201-2. And the rest is, well, you all know how it goes. For the first couple of years I would buy just about anything that was priced right. Then I started getting more selective about my collecting and focused on mid century Japanese machines and let most of my Singers and other non Japanese machines go. I've had more than 100 go through my hands, have about 80 still, and even though I'm not actively seeking them out any more, one will still manage to find me every now and then.

Cari

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wahoonc

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Reply with quote  #11 
Slippery slopes...

I have a great love for anything mechanical. Especially older things.

When I first started in the construction business many, many years ago I had the great fortune to be taught by several gentlemen from previous generations how to do things right. They always started us off with the most basic of hand tools, they would allow us to "graduate" to better tools and then power tools. Their philosophy was you needed to learn how to make it work first, then use the labor-saving devices.

I learned to sew by hand when I was 8 or 9, mom got tired of sewing my buttons back on that I apparently was quite adept at tearing off my clothes. Eventually, I learned basic sewing with a thread and needle, then was allowed to use her 1961 Singer 404 for larger repairs and projects. For many years if anything needed sewing I would head to mom's house and use the Singer. I stopped sewing for quite a few years other than the quick hand repair of a missing button or a patch. Mom gave me and my first wife the Singer 404 when she upgraded to a fancy Husqvarna-Viking. Lost that one in the divorce.

Fast forward a few more years and I have remarried, my bride had a Singer 760 Touch and Throw that needed new feed dogs, so I ordered up a set and got them installed. We were at a yard sale and a 1965 Singer 500a Rocketeer followed me home for the princely sum of $35, it came with full drawers and most of the accessories available that year. That got me back into sewing a bit more, mostly repairs, light alterations, and repairing bicycle luggage (another addiction).

Then a couple of years ago I got the hankering for the old 404. Found one on eBay and placed a bid and forgot about it. A short while later my ex died and the kids asked if I wanted the 404 back, it also came with a companion 1926 66, shortly thereafter the eBay 404 showed up. In the meantime, I find out my MIL has at least two VSM stashed in a back room at her house. Now I am building a new 32'x40' barn/shop, once it gets done we will reassemble the collections of VSM, bicycles, lamps, lanterns, camp stoves, hand tools and such. Current VSM count is 10-12, 30+ bicycles, 25 or so lanterns and oil lamps, 8 camp stoves, a couple of scooters, several vintage lawnmowers, and a couple of old trucks. I do believe I am set for retirement[biggrin]

Aaron [cool]

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MarlenaL

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Reply with quote  #12 
My mother had three girls and a love of modern bells-and-whistles Singers, so when she went to the OSMG to get us (me) set up with a machine which was NOT the precious TouchTronic, she came home with a Singer 600e, the earliest Touch and Sew, in a desk from the home ec. department of the local high school with plenty of initials and dates scratched into it by bored students. So I grew up with a top-of-the-line mechanical, attachments everywhere, and a firm belief that all sewing machines wound bobbins in place. (It was a bit of a crash in Home Ec. when, after breezing through sewing for weeks, was suddenly faced with an empty bobbin and a machine with...some doohickey...on top?...[confused]) I was the only daughter who stuck with machine sewing, so when I went to college I went with mom's first machine, some no-frills Stylist I think, while the heavy T&S stayed home. Then one day everything inside it went 'crunch' and the local OSMG told me, fairly, that it would be cheaper to replace than repair. I didn't know about nylon's properties then, and the guilt of 'breaking mom's sewing machine' stuck with me for years. So it was due to that, I thought, that I couldn't bond with the new modern mechanical Viking one boyfriend bought, nor the Singer Stylist the next boyfriend dragged home from a charity shop--at least that one was metal, but I treated it poorly with WD-40, not knowing better.

Move after move: the Viking stayed with the ex, the Stylist stayed with 220V mains, I haunted sewing forums while failing to bond with one of my mom's rejected modern computerized machines. Then a certain person turned up, not as a sewist, but bubbling over with enthusiasm for restoring vintage sewing machines, displaying with pride the restoration of a Necchi BU which he had bought in the next metro area over from mine. Gears started to turn: I was back in the USA, vintage machines were plentiful again. I found new blogs and sites, with titles like How to Identify a Singer from Crappy Craigslist Photos and How to Rewire a Potted Motor (Step by Step). Then my husband texted me during a bike ride one day, saying he'd found an antique shop which was giving away an old black sewing machine in a cabinet but the wires were shot, did I want to bring the car and get it? DID I?!?! [biggrin] (He is a keeper.) It was the usual gateway machine, a Singer 66. I took up that rewiring guide and, with my heart in my mouth (electricity being the one module of physics class I had nearly failed outright), a soldering iron. Plugged it afterward into the grounded auto-cutoff outlet with fear and trembling...and it hummed, and I wasn't an electrical failure any more, and I was hooked.

Unlike a few of us, I researched for months before buying more. Slowly I learned that I liked the mechanical ingenuity of Kenmores, so I sought and found one which a chainstitch capacity, and learned to delight in the buttonholer as well. Then I sought and found one of the less weighty models, unfortunately managing to find the one most thoroughly stuck example of that model that has yet been mentioned on the internet. Seriously, that one stupid spring and/or peg...The Singer was given to another admirer of vintage who couldn't afford one already refurbished, and I committed to Kenmore and to Sears. Later I indulged in an uncommon yellow painted Kenmore, so bright and cheerful, as I was getting nowhere finding a White 77 with its elegant body shape, as the idle beauty of the house. (I hate crinkle, I had said. Couldn't give me a crinkle if you tried, I had said. What sympathy purchase did I make when the vintage sewing machine specialist in the next metro area was closing its doors? The ugliest crinkle White in the shop. Loved its engineering and smoothness but had to rehome it to someone less sensitive to bentwood case aroma.) Then I got a faint itch for a painted treadle, which surely wasn't going to pan out, but I still had an idle eye on the usual sites. What should pop up, but a painted treadle actually badged Kenmore, cheap enough and 'close' enough to look past the 'broken pedal' and gamble upon? It wasn't broken. It was meant to detach and fold out of sight when not in use. I have a weakness for metal objects which oughtn't to fold, but do.

I'm done collecting now. I have my workhorse, my portable (stitch length notwithstanding), my beauty, my weirdo, none of which can share their attachments. Technically there's room for a Kenmore badged serger, which will also not be able to share feet with any other machine, but it won't be vintage (la la la la la the 1990s aren't vintage yet, I can't hear you la la la [tounge2]) so it may increase to five, but really I am done. Though I enjoy looking at other folks' collections yet, they may keep the beautiful shellac away from my clumsy hands. I have paint. Sometimes even crinkle paint.
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Chaly

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Reply with quote  #13 
Lot’s of interesting stories here and they are all unique and fun to read. 
 
I’m a sewer from probably the last generation of required Home Ec classes for girls.  This is where I leaned sewing basics.  I kind of took to it easy and I think I was the rare type to get an A+ in sewing and also chemistry - don’t ask about my grades in other classes that I wasn’t interested in!  Sewing was great for me because back then I could expand my wardrobe more cheaply than ready-to-wear.
 
Anyway, at home we had a featherweight - my mom’s high school graduation present.  It was just used for light sewing, mending, etc.  My mom was not a serious seamstress.  So when I had a machine in school that was a zigzag - the featherweight just didn’t seem to meet the “advanced” requirements that was needed to sew well.  For Christmas one year my parents got me a zigzag/decorative stitch machine from Wards.  And I really hated that machine.  Maybe I didn’t know how to adjust or use properly but I just didn’t get good results.
 
Then college and very little sewing during this time.  With my first job I was determined to finally get a “good” sewing machine and purchased a Singer Stylist free arm (what I could afford and at that it was an expensive purchase for me - something like an Elna of the 1970s would have been completely out of my reach).  It of course seemed like a dream compared to that Wards machine but it got used very rarely as I was too busy working, etc. to sew.
 
I then inherited my aunt’s featherweight and it just sat.  Then some years passed - and just sewing rarely - halloween costumes, etc.  One day I was attempting to sew a doll outfit for my daughter using some very fine organdy - and my machine just chewed it up.  So I got out the featherweight and wow!  Not only was the stitch better, but the control and precision was great and much, much better than the Stylist.  That was the end of the Stylist!
 
A few years later I ran into a trashed Singer 99 - hey this looks like my featherweight - so I brought it home and researched and got it going and another wow!  Soon after a dirty frozen Singer 15-91 came my way and hey - another black Singer so let’s see how this works.  More research and cleaning and oiling  and another wow!  So now I was hooked on using these great tools for sewing and progressed into trying different vintage machines to see how their functions and abilities for sewing compare.  It took my a long time to deviate from the comfort of Singers but my branching out to try vintage Necchi’s and Elna’s are some more wows!
 
Now I have a nice collection of machines that each provide something special for my sewing - and a few duplicates.  My goals are to get each of my machines in top shape and in a refinished cabinet/case that corresponds to their history and then finish up my sewing room to display what I can.  I mostly feel I will never be done but I have learned to say “no" to new machines and cabinets - for the most part!
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Rocketeer

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Reply with quote  #14 

I love reading all of these stories! They make me feel I'm in good company. Here's mine...

When I was a really little guy I used to play "spaceship" on my mom's Singer Golden Touch & Sew 640. At some point I figured it was more interesting to learn how it actually worked, and I read the manual. My mom had mentioned watching her mother sew at her treadle Singer, and there were rare occasions I got to see that machine on the back porch of my grandparents' home; somehow a secret awe developed, just like when you're way into cars as a kid in the design wasteland of the 1980s, and discover a neon 57 Chevy in your grandparents' garage -- "I had no idea they could look like that!"

When I was in graduate school I was running to get groceries and saw a garage sale on a corner that frequently hosted them. There was a Singer treadle in cabinet. It was shiny and perfect-looking, and I could tell from having experience with my mom's T&S that it turned over fine and the motion was all there and similar. I bought it on the spot, got spare parts and an original manual for it, discovered it was a 1954 15-88 and used it for simple projects -- pillowcases, duvet covers, a kite. I would break it down, clean it, oil it periodically, like a car. Somehow my SMAD was in remission after this purchase.

Flash forward 15 years and it started with a hand crank -- I had wanted to convert (or have the option) to hand crank my solitary machine, and eventually got that. I also needed a wastebasket for the "man cave" she lives in, and a vintage-looking Singer trash can filled that niche. Somehow in my brain, a voice said, "This is the start of your Singer obsession."
Then I saw the Rocketeer. I had no idea such things existed. I decided I had to have one immediately and found one locally for sale the very next weekend. Wanted a portable case and -- lo and behold, found one of those, but with another Rocketeer inside! And in even better shape. Now I was using terms like "parts machine." I took one completely apart and restored it with the help of Andy Tube. 

It all spiraled quickly from there. I started collecting old Singer ephemera (the "costumes of the world" cards, songbird cards, others) and became obsessed with the shuttle mechanisms -- I couldn't believe that the early machines sewed (and beautifully) by throwing a metal bullet repeatedly through a loop of thread! I decided I wanted to have one of each of the three early mechanisms as Singer referred to them -- vibrating shuttle, oscillating shuttle (assumed this referred to my 15), and automatic. Throw in the discovery of the model 12 "transverse shuttle," and what quickly followed was a 27 "Pheasant," a 27 "Pheasant" in even better shape, a 27K "Sphinx" (bought just for the darn bobbin winder but it was in such beautiful shape I kept it intact), the old 81712 loopy hand crank for the 27K, a 12K "Ottoman Carnation," then a couple 24s and a couple 319Ws in green (one each for parts of course). With all of these some appropriate cases in bentwood, "coffin," or canvas. And then the husband said I had to stop, so I (mostly) did. A wonderful neighbor across the street heard about my obsession and wanted to give me her aunt's machine -- which turned out to be a Centennial Featherweight! I swore I would never become a "FW person" but now that happened also, and I have the t-shirt and socks from The Featherweight Shop to prove it.

Ultimately I sublimated my SMAD into VNAD -- and at least the Vintage Notions all fit in a -- well now two -- boxes. I've been able to resist more machines, and especially other brands, though I think my ultimate acquisition will be a Kenmore 116.531. I can't resist the notion of a magnetic bobbin case. 

For me, these are cars that don't need a garage. I love working on them and "driving them around." It all felt more purposeful when I began to make a lot of masks for family and neighbors, and then started to get commissions for various other projects. 

Like Chaly I hope to have a museum room of sorts one day to display and use these amazing machines. 

Matt

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JustGail

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Reply with quote  #15 
Like many of you, I got my first vintage machine because the "new" machine wasn't up to the task.  My first sewing machine was a late 70s Singer Stylist 533, which did fine for about 5 years, then stopped holding tension which I fought with for another 5-ish years of not much sewing, so it got traded for a Bernina 1020 in 1999.  Like an idiot, I traded that for a Viking Quilt Designer in 2002 because I thought I needed all those fancy stitches, and it had a bit bigger harp space.  That was OK for a long time, then...  DH drug home his insulated Carhart coveralls for repairs, loooong past the time he should have.  The Viking tried to handle those seams, it really did, but no way.  It just happened that there was an estate auction nearby a few days later, with a couple of old Singers.  So I took a chance on a 15-91 for the grand sum of $15.  I drug it home, looked at the scary wiring, saw no areas where it would short out or cause other issue, gave it a shot of oil, threaded it up, held my breath, plugged it in....   whew - no smoke, sparks or kaboom!!!     I shoved the coveralls under the presser foot and it sewed through with no problem, not even a wimper of motor straining.  

Since then the following Singer machines have joined the herd:
2nd 15-91 bought for the mahogany Queen Ann cabinet and stool
3rd 15-91 bought for the walnut Queen Ann cabinet and stool, sold the machine head
201-2 which is now in one of the QA cabinets
2nd 201-2 (a Centennial model)
28 hand crank
Featherweight (seems like it can sew fast without ticking sound only if using Singer brand needles)
66 treadle, which I should put the belt on now that I don't have a puppy in the house 
12 treadle, missing coffin top
101 portable, is in usable condition as it had been rewired and serviced by the seller
640 (bought for the chain stitch capability, wouldn't work reliably, sold it a few months later)

Then there are the other brands:
Union Special 1800AA or AG  
Eldredge 2 Spool in parlor cabinet (sadly it was electrified and the treadle bits are missing)
Necchi SuperNova Ultra (Mom's machine that I now use for most of my quilt piecing)

And the toy hand cranks:
Singer 20 with motor and super scary wiring
Essex 
Stitch Queen
Baby Brother (can use batteries also)

And bringing up the rear are the modern and other machines:
Viking Quilt Designer
Bernina 1031 (bought because I SO regretted trading in the 1020)
Handi-Quilter Sweet 16 in a Grace Q-Zone frame (because shoving a full size quilt around the table and me just didn't get along)
Janome Coverpro 1000CPX (bought used from someone who didn't use it enough to keep it taking up space)
White 234D serger
?? hemstitcher (don't have needles and missing a couple parts that apparently ended up in another box at the auction)


Of course, there are multiple sets of the common presser feet, plus some of the less common ones, none of the rare ones.

Even though I retired last fall, working on the machines hasn't risen to the top of the list, especially now that it's prime weed battling time in neglected flower beds and garden.  I only got as far as getting them unfrozen if they were, and oiling them.  Part of the problem is lack of a decent comfortable work area with good light and the right tools.  My plan was to get a 15-91 and 201-2 rewired and up to snuff in the QA cabinets, then sell the duplicates.  The Singer 12 and Eldredge cabinets are rough and both machines still need a good cleaning.  The rest are in working order, I don't have a good spot to put them where I remember to get them out and use them.  And I should also re-home the Coverpro (use rarely), the hemstitcher (never plugged in), and the Union Special.  

Am I done acquiring?  I'd *like* to say yes, but if I ever find a Singer 24, 29, or 237 (for zig-zag capability in the treadle cabinet), or treadle/handcrank versions of the Singer 15 or 201...  close enough to pick up, and at the right condition/price combination I'll probably add more.  It will take a really special machine, or know someone who is looking for it, for me to buy one that's needing lots of work though.  Right now I like using them more than fixing them.




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Mavis

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Reply with quote  #16 
First machine?  I wasn't "into" machines then, but I know Mom's black sewing machine in a cabinet was a Singer (I now believe it was a 201).  Sigh...cannot tell you how many times I've kicked myself for not keeping it.  After she passed, and several years later when Dad made the moved to assisted living, I was offered that machine.  No, I didn't need her "old" machine, and when would I ever use it, with work and small kids, etc.   I gave permission for it to be with the other stuff to be auctioned off.  I have felt terrible over these last few years (after enlightenment), that I didn't realize what a great machine Mom had.  I had bought myself a machine that could do zig zag and a few other extra stitches in the early 70's (also a Singer), but I don't recall the model #, and I'm up at the cabin now). H.S. home ec class also had Singer sewing machines, but much newer than Mom's.  I didn't pay attention to model #'s then either.  

How I got hooked on "vintage machines" was probably all your fault.  Ha ha!  Reading about old machines, their capabilities, ease of maintaining, ability to repair by yourself, started over on the Q. B.'s vintage section for me.  You know who you are...lots of the enablers from there moved over to this site, and I was so happy to find you all when I wandered over!  My admiration for those well made machines is only exceeded by so many of you who are so willing to share your knowledge and show the rest of us what can be done.  Well done everyone.

I don't know how many machines we have right now, but I think it's still under 20!

 

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Jeanette Frantz

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chaly
We all started somewhere.  What was your first machine?  What triggered you to start collecting?  What's your SMAD story?  And what does your SMAD future look like?


My very first machine was purchased for me by my husband for Christmas the very first year we were married.  It's a 1963 Singer 328-K, I've had it all these many years, and it still runs like a top and sews very well.

I had never 'intended' to start collecting machines, but, some things just happen.  We bought a Singer 1425 for my mom, many years ago (she passed away in 1998) so I ended up with that one, too.  Then, my son was working as a SM Mechanic (for 14 years) and there were several that were destined for the garbage dump, placed in the "bone yard" to be smashed with a sledge hammer.  During his first few years, my son re-built 2 or 3 Singer T & S machines, as learning tools for his job, and ultimately we ended up keeping them, plus there was a Babylock Serger that someone traded in because they couldn't figure out out to run it (I might be in the same situation myself).  At any rate, it needed a few repairs, which he did at home.  It does a good job for "serger type" jobs.  Then, there was a Singer 201 (and this may be the best deal he ever acquired -- someone brought it in for trade-in, but there's not a real market in a "new" sewing machine sales business for a 201.  The machine didn't work -- because someone had pulled the tensioner off and put it back together backwards.  When my aunt was placed in long-term care back in 2010, she had my husband's great-grandmother's National Two Spool Machine, so I acquired that.  My aunt said it didn't work, but my son had it fixed 10 minutes after it came in our door.  The cabinet still needs work, etc., and since I've had 2 lumbar spine surgeries and more spinal injections than I can count, I have to admit I've not done much with it.  I bought and cleaned up a Minnesota Model A for my cousin (we delivered that one to her last October).  There's still a Singer 185 and an Athena, and I have to admit I don't know the status of those -- maybe good for scrap metal, but I just don't know.  At my age (75) and with serious spinal issues, I am just not able to work with or on them much any more.  So, if it works, great, if not - ????  My son purchased a Singer Featherweight at the local Goodwill Store for me about 12-15 years ago for $50, and a Singer 403 clean as a whistle for $43.  All the ones that work, I have really enjoyed having and using, but truly, despite SMAD, I really do NOT want another machine.

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Jeanette Frantz, Ocala, Florida
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This one will be short...  A high school friend (from 1960's) said "Do you know that there are people who collect vintage sewing machines?"  I said "That's crazy!  What kind of a person collects sewing machines?"  Time went on, but I couldn't get it off my mind.  I had only 2 sewing machines at the time.  My ancient Kenmore (50's or early 60's-IDK) & a new Brother.  One day I saw a beautiful & well maintained Kenmore from 70's on goodwill auction site.  It was a pick up only, ridiculously cheap & right here in Orlando, so I bid on it, won the bid as only bidder - LOL - and brought it home.  I bought it because my old Kenmore workhorse didn't have zig zag.  Also, I had a Kenmore that I bought new in 1965 right after graduating high school.  In late 1980's it was giving me trouble that in retrospect it probably only needed cleaning & a new needle, but I knew nothing about maintaining a sewing machine.  It is a miracle it ran for so long without cleaning, but to cut the story short, one day in a fit of frustration, I put it on the curb...  Oh how I have regretted that since I learned how to properly maintain a machine AND much about repairs as well.  That machine was a heavy duty, top of the line sewing machine &, apparently, maybe a bit rare because I have looked & looked on line for a couple of years now to find the same machine again - no luck.  But, I promised you a short story, so I'll finish up by saying that I have the VSM virus & now have 23 sewing machines (19 are vintage) and a miniature/toy SM collection of 11 machines - I call them decoration!

 

Now I know what kind of a person collects sewing machines...  People just like me!


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Darlene Cirinna, Orlando, FL
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Reply with quote  #19 
All your stories are really interesting to read. It is funny to see the common points in all stories.

As for me, I never really had any sewing background. I remember my mum using the Brother zigzag machine she got for her wedding in 1980 sewing carnaval costumes for my sister and I or mending clothes or making home furnishings. I remember that I used to like the smell of the machine: the oil, the faint whiff of primer on fabric etc.
When growing up and moving into my own appartment then house, I wanted a sewing machine to use for mending clothes, for letting the hem of the curtain that shrunk in the wash etc etc. Having always been attracted to antinque or vintage objects, I naturally turned to charity shops to find an old machine. I ended up buying a 1930 electrically converted Excelsior (Baer & Rempel); not a success! The machine was not user-friendly and I never managed to make it sew. I gave up on the machine but then, my grandmother asked me if I wanted her to give me her sewing machine for Christmas; it was being too heavy to carry around and her eyesight was getting too bad for sewing. I knew it was a Singer and that she had had it since the 1950s and that at least my mum knew how to use it! I said yes and the rest is history! When I saw the tan Singer 15B I just loved it. I started to look for extra information on vintage sewing machines and ended up on various forums that triggered my collector's bug. 
After that I wanted a treadle, I got one, then a long bobbin machine, I got one then machine were " thrown my way " in the charity shop and it was the start of the slippery slope!
I soon enough decided I would concentrate on Singers so I gave my mum the Bernina 730 Record (she had replaced her Brother with a plastic wonder and it is not up to the mark). I kept the 50s Japanese Zigzag Crosley Nogamatic because it looks cool with all the chromes and now I have a new to me Excelsior I "inherited" with the house.... And 10 Singers!!
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My descent into SMAD began innocently about four and half years ago. A friend of a friend was giving away a Singer Slant-o-matic, I was in need of a better sewing machine, but was unsure because this machine came in a big old desk. So I started researching. This is when I discovered the world of vintage sewing machines, and started to read blog, after blog, after blog. I loved that these machines had lasted for decades and would last for decades more, no built in obsolescence here. Even more that I could work on them myself. Oh, I didn’t get the Slant-o-matic, someone else had scooped it up before I made up my mind.
 
My first vintage machine was a Featherweight. If you had asked which was my first machine a few months ago, I would have sworn that it was my Singer 201-2.  But recently I’ve actually put together an inventory of my machines. I have finally admitted that I collect. Thankfully there is an email for nearly every machine I’ve acquired, because I have a bad case of “complete-itis”, and it would have driven me crazy not to have the date and price of each machine in my database. Anyway, after watching this Featherweight for a while, it came down to a very reasonable price so I got it. My first vintage machine, and oh it sewed so nice! My next machine was a 401A, it was a Slant-o-matic that had started this and I still wanted one. Then I got a Singer 185j, it was cute, green, and super cheap. Then I got my Singer 201-2. Thought I was done, I mean I had a Featherweight and the “Rolls-Royce” of Singers what else could I need.
 
Wait, there are other sewing machines beside Singers! I came across a pretty Necchi BU in an amazing case. More research, boy folks really love their Neechis, maybe I should try a Necchi. So I got the BU. There is a reason people love Neechis, this is the machine I use the most. Though I do try use all my machines on a rotating basis. Ok, so I am finally done, no more machines, over two years go by, then this little Singer 99 saunters in. It was practically mint, even the case, and the case is just like the case for my 201-2. Wouldn't it be nice to have a little sister for my 201-2, sure it is only $50.
 
All was quiet for another two years, then something goes terribly wrong. I triple the number of machines I have in just a couple of months. Granted three of the machines were given to me, one was a near free machine I picked up to practice French polishing, one I got just for the table. Oh, yeah now the cabinets start to interest me, I’ve thrown out my portables only rule. I also ended up with three 15-91’s after hearing their praises as free motion quilters. After looking for quite a while couldn’t find one at a good price, then I got one at a pretty good price, then another that was so cheap that I couldn’t resist, then I was given another. After they are restored one or two of these will find new homes. So now, I’m really curios about non-Singers and a “The Free No. 5” beauty pops up and it must have called its cousins because two Free-Westinghouse machine show up on its heels.
 
So now I’m up to 26 machines (though 1 is a parts machine, 1 a practice machine, 1 or 2 that I am fostering). A majority of these are recently acquired and still need work.  I have project machines that will keep me busy for the next 6 months+, because I don’t work nearly as fast as Jim does, but yet I still check the ads everyday.

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Reply with quote  #21 
This line made me laugh out loud!   "All was quiet for another two years, then something goes terribly wrong. I triple the number of machines I have in just a couple of months."
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Haha, SMAD can lie dormant for many years! I had one machine for some 15 years, and then in a few months I had (I don't even want to say the number) ten!
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Reply with quote  #23 
FYI - SMAD growth is exponential. I'm trying to keep it under 30, I've sold three, gave away 4, loaned out 1. Then the Universe gave me 3 more.

Now I understand what Cari said, "My favorite machine is the one I'm sewing with right now."

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Reply with quote  #24 
Back when I was a kid in the middle of the prior century, my mother had but one sewing machine, a Singer treadle, that had been my grandmother's.  In the early 1950s, Mom had the sm electrified, the treadle frame became a work bench, and the drawer stacks were fashioned together to become a notions cabinet.  I still remember Mom allowing me to wind bobbins for her, which I found fascinating.  My clothes were hand me downs, and patched with this Singer.  This was the one and only sm that my mother ever had.  Fast forward about 60 years, I was becoming tangled in the binding strip and the basting thread of my favorite blanket, as the stitches unraveled.  Unused for decades, Mom's Singer was waiting, there was no other.  I knew nothing about the machine, not even how to thread it.  I soon found that the sm was a 1905 Model 27, with Tiffany decals, and standard side clamp feet.  Now in its third generation of service to one family, it sews as well as when it was new.  Every now and then, I go through all of the items in those 6 treadle drawers, buttons, zippers, curtain rod clips, darning egg, etc. , all of which passed through my mother's hands.  Many other vintage sewing machines have been added to the stable,  but Mom's Singer 27 s/n B1237829 is special.
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John,

Thanks for sharing the story of your family sewing machine.

I think part of the reason I like vintage sewing machines so much, along side of their beauty and mechanical ingenuity.  I know that most of my machines were an important part of peoples lives and they deserve to be saved, used, and cherished.

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Very true Tammy, one of those machines that WI Lori gave away is a Universal head in a  nicely refinished Singer treadle, that traveled 250 miles, via our rendezvous in mid-Wisconsin, and Pony Expressed to an Amish family with 6 daughters and two sons.  I also furnished them with a zig zag head that drops right into that Singer treadle cabinet, both sm taking a 15 bobbin. They make all of their own clothes, which the women hold onto their bodies with straight pins, no buttons.  
     The entire family gathered around my car as I opened the rear hatch, Mom, Katie, kept asking how much it cost.  I told her that she could afford this is one, since it was free.  They were delighted.  With at least three daughters appearing to be teenagers, Katie can conduct her own sewing school.  Their long kitchen table for eight, was covered with thin cut home made noodles, drying. 
    Now this sewing equipment will be used and appreciated.  Katie is going to bake me a pie.  I wonder if  the pie will be a schnitz or a shoo fly pie.....something for you to Google. 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmer John
Very true Tammy, one of those machines that WI Lori gave away is a Universal head in a  nicely refinished Singer treadle, that traveled 250 miles, via our rendezvous in mid-Wisconsin, and Pony Expressed to an Amish family with 6 daughters and two sons.  I also furnished them with a zig zag head that drops right into that Singer treadle cabinet, both sm taking a 15 bobbin. They make all of their own clothes, which the women hold onto their bodies with straight pins, no buttons.  
     The entire family gathered around my car as I opened the rear hatch, Mom, Katie, kept asking how much it cost.  I told her that she could afford this is one, since it was free.  They were delighted.  With at least three daughters appearing to be teenagers, Katie can conduct her own sewing school.  Their long kitchen table for eight, was covered with thin cut home made noodles, drying. 
    Now this sewing equipment will be used and appreciated.  Katie is going to bake me a pie.  I wonder if  the pie will be a schnitz or a shoo fly pie.....something for you to Google. 
Farmer John



OMG. Can I refurbish treadle VSMs and give them to Amish families too? I would totally do that!!! This made me well up...

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I’ve enjoyed reading these stories.  I have an appreciation for old sewing machines, but I definitely don’t have any type of addiction. 

Sure, I have three cabinet machines and two portables in my tiny apartment.  But one of them is a very nice ’85 IF my mother gave me and also my first machine.  I have to keep it for that reason, but also because it’s in such amazing shape and fun to sew on.  Getting that machine stitching was a blast.  Another is a 301 in a #71 cabinet with matching chair.  I have to keep that one because it’s also in great shape and fun to use, and in case I break an ankle and am unable to treadle.  The last cabinet machine is a ’79 IF.  I had to buy that one because the price was right and I planned to re-home it after I got it stitching.  I think I have a good home for it, but the patina of the cabinet is growing on me.  One portable is a Pfaff 360 I paid $20 for and drove an hour to get.  I have to keep that one for the ZZ and embroidery stitches.  The other portable is a German TS hand crank (make unknown still) I picked up last weekend because it was also too good of a deal to pass by.  I have to keep that one as well, because it is velvety smooth, pretty, and fun to sew on.  Also, if the power goes out and I break my ankle, I can still sew. 

Oh, and my office desk is made out of an industrial Singer treadle base I picked up.  It works great as a desk, and I can treadle as I type emails to relieve stress while I edit out expletives.  

So, I only have five machines.  Of course I’m not counting the two 15-88s in storage, the 206k in the straight leg wooden treadle also in storage, the Moldecot, or the boxes of spare parts for machines I don’t own any longer.  I’m also not counting the half dozen or so machines I sold or gave away in the last year.

I’ve enjoyed reading these stories, but I’m glad my appreciation for sewing machines hasn’t (d)evolved into a "collection".  All of my acquisitions have been fully justified (by me) and were most definitely rational, practical and wise decisions. Everything’s totally under control.  Now, back to CL...

Greg

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ttatummm

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Quote:
Originally Posted by stitchntime

 Everything’s totally under control.  Now, back to CL...


Greg


[rofl]

Greg,

I covet your 71 cabinet and chair.  If you ever decide you don't need it, you know where you can find a home for it.

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Tammy,
I certainly will.  I've thought about it a few times.

Greg
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Reply with quote  #31 
Sure Matt, I can tell you that the Amish love ZZ machines.  Often a hybrid is created...a vintage treadle cabinet with a 1950s ZZ head, one which has an external motor and a belt groove at the handwheel area.  Both the light and motor are removed.  Noah S.  told me that at a recent  Amish farm auction, a Necchi (head only) sold for $110.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmer John
  I wonder if  the pie will be a schnitz or a shoo fly pie.....something for you to Google. 
Farmer John


I did Google it.  Funny, I always thought shoo fly pie was a southern thing. My grandmother use to make it, I love anything molasses, I didn't realize it was Amish.

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Reply with quote  #33 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmer John
Sure Matt, I can tell you that the Amish love ZZ machines.  Often a hybrid is created...a vintage treadle cabinet with a 1950s ZZ head, one which has an external motor and a belt groove at the handwheel area.  Both the light and motor are removed.  Noah S.  told me that at a recent  Amish farm auction, a Necchi (head only) sold for $110.
Farmer John


I've tucked away my sixth Singer 237 to give my friend because he does that does exactly this. Treadle powers zz machines for the Amish. It can often be a very good thing. The zz head finds a home in an abandoned treadle. Hey, if that saves another machine, then I'm all for it! 

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Reply with quote  #34 
Sorry if I corrupted the SMAD topic.  These stories are wonderful.  I don't call it a disease, but rather a preservation or rescue of artifacts.  If only these machines could talk.   They were part of the family, quietly waiting and performed when needed.  I have stories that go with my mother's model 27.  Growing up on the Kankakee River near Wilmington, Ill, my mother and her sister gathered clams, which they boiled out, bagging the shells and selling them to the local button factory.  So I think of that when going through the buttons in the drawers.
     The SMAD goes beyond the sm itself, but to the drawer contents also.  In one sewing machine drawer, I found two letters from a son, writing home to his mother in early 1945.  He had turned in his gas mask, and hoped that the war would soon be over.  Little did he know of the future.  I hope that he made it home.  None the less, his Mom kept those letters in a precious place, where they remained close to her.  I think that it harder on parents at home when their sons and now daughters are deployed to a foreign land in harms way.  Been there, still brings tears to my eyes, the wait for the unknown is overwhelming.
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Reply with quote  #35 
Farmer John your stories both personal and the one about the letters are fascinating and really moving. I too enjoy going through the drawers content; it gives such an insight at other people's lives and are like time capsules. For instance, in the drawer of the 1920 128K, I found parts of a pattern for a blouse (I think) cut out from a 1924 newspaper. There also was a 1950 / early 1960s catalogue for kitchen appliances from a high street shop that still exists today with crosses next to a fridge and a gas cooker. It is almost as if you can unravel the history of a person; the young lady who had this machine as a bride in the early 1920s sewing a new Sunday best blouse went on to buy a fridge in her middle age -unless it was her daughter... 
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