Questions and thoughts

The Home For Wayward Machines

This is what Tierney called my sewing room. 😁 She’s right – I tend to collect a lot of strays. There’s a theory that vintage sewing machines broadcast to each other the locations of such safe havens, so that once you get one of them in and fix her up, she sets up a beacon and others follow. 😲

The transverse shuttle bug

Although all are accepted for treatment, only some gain a permanent residence here. Most are fixed up and re-homed, while a few are reincarnated as something else or even scavenged and scrapped… Death is a part of life, also for sewing machines. After all, spare parts have to come from somewhere.

So what is it that makes me keep some machines but not others?


That’s the easy bit: it’s got to deliver quality sewing and it’s got to be built to last – no plastic gears, please. Plastic gears are a big no-no, although not an all-out rule.


It must offer something unique, something that my other machines don’t have or cannot do. For example, sew the thinnest stretchiest jersey with a matching flexible stitch (Jones Family TS), or sew almost anything with equally excellent stitch and minimal adjustment (Adler 87), or have the craziest wide ribbon embroidery that you’ve ever seen (Vigorelli Fantasy). There must be something to set it apart, and a different decal alone is not enough, it must be a functional feature.

Many different mechanisms here

Be nice

The machine must be nice to work with, from my point of view. I don’t want machines that put me in a bad mood, sew through my fingers (slant needle) or make me swear because the design feels illogical. It’s a personal thing and it’s completely subjective, but hey – I’m the one sewing! Sewing is my happy place and I only want happy machines. 😊

Free motion embroidery with Stoppax on Singer 66K

Be beautiful

Yes, we’re vain here! Girls will be girls even at 130, and we want our hair in curlers, our nails done and a pretty frock to wear. Elegant lines and decals, pretty colours and shiny fixtures – we care for that, too!

1960s brought colour to sewing machines

That is not to say that all my machines have to be in pristine condition, not at all! In fact most of them are in a rather worn condition after a life of work followed by neglect. But I clean them up, polish them up, put new decals or embellishments here and there – and we’re looking pretty again.

My sewing room is not a factory floor, and I like arts and design and probably too many knick-knacks. Who cares! It’s how I like it. Victorian shabby chique. What do you mean – there is no such style? πŸ˜†

Fit into the room

This is a tricky one – of course you can fit anything you like, but as the space is limited, you have to choose. I love those large Victorian parlour cabinets opening up to create a whole sewing studio with a large table and lots of drawers and of course a sewing machine. But I have no room for that! And I don’t find it practical to have to convert it back and forth every time. Instead, I prefer everything ready to use at any moment.

No Victorian parlour cabinets then.

Another point is that I like my machines to be flush with the table – sunk into the table. A small rise of a few centimetres is acceptable but really no more than that. Not 10cm that we find with most machines – they need that depth to accomodate the mechanism under the bed. I also like to be able to swap out machines as necessary, so I have two sewing spaces with a table top cut-out for a standard plastic case.

So every machine must fit into one of these cases.

Mason’s Defender had to fit into a standard Singer-sized case to be of any use, as did Necchi Supernova behind it

As an exception, transverse shuttle machines are allowed to keep their own cases because they have a low rise – the mechanism is quite flat.

Singer 48K has the highest base of all my transverse shuttle machines, but at 4cm it still works

But Jones TS came with a whole table top, and suddenly I have a TS machine that is flush with the table!

Jones Family TS came with a table top from the treadle – I can now mount any other fiddle base machine there

Live in the modern world

This probably should have been at the top. My sewing room is for sewing, it is not a museum. If I cannot get needles and bobbins to use with a machine, and if I cannot mount a motor to it, I won’t be using it. This is why I adapt old machines to use modern needles – not necessarily the “standard domestic” 15×1, but anything that’s readily available. No, not as a special order in boxes of 1000, but off the shelf in boxes of 10. This is why the only way I can use Mason’s Defender is with a Jones shuttle that takes standard VS bobbins, not the super-rare ones with a hollow tube.

One exception to this rule is Adler 87. It is my main machine but it uses proprietary donut-shaped bobbins similar to Wheeler & Wilson’s D9 but larger. I’ve got some but not enough. I would normally shy away from this machine (it also uses weird needles), but the quality and performance are so good, that I found it worth while to revive it. I shall be replacing the needle bar later (I have a lot of those old needles), but for now I ordered 60 reproduction bobbins for it – 3D printed based on the original. There will be a separate post on that once they all arrive, but the trial ones were excellent.

The bottom line is: a modern solution has to be found if the machine is to be used. One needle and one bobbin is really not enough!

And the others

But sometimes I just like the look of it… 😯

That Bradbury Medium VS is still in the queue…

Some machines are simply on display and are not being used. Usually because they haven’t been done yet. Sometimes because I just like to look at them, even though I decided I wouldn’t be using them. I try to have most of my machines on display, so that they please the eye as well as the hand.

Someone said that you should only keep things that are either useful or beautiful. Old sewing machines are both! πŸ˜ƒ

5 thoughts on “The Home For Wayward Machines

  1. I get what you mean about machines. I like them to behave, enjoy using them, be pretty to look at (ie in really good shape), be worthy of keeping, and function. I don’t repair machines, but do like using them. I like my slant needle Singer 403A, and my The Free No 5 treadle, and my hand crank 99 and 66. I also like my computerized ones as they fill a space I need in some areas. I am like this about my cameras, too; a few new but mostly oldies that I enjoy using, even if quirky!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your Victorian shabby chique sewing room looks so inviting, and I love how your feline friends are tucked among the machines and fabrics. I’m curious as to which of your machines inspired you to begin your restoration journey.


      1. Thank you for sharing the post with Greta’s story. I couldn’t help but think that her story could be made into a Virginia Lee Burton style children’s picture book. You found her, gave her a good home with a little TLC, and in return she unlocked and invited you into an entirely new world of sewing machines.

        Liked by 1 person

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