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antique sewing machines

The Story Behind a Pre-Owned Sewing Machine

pre-owned sewing machineSewing4Everyone prides itself on its collection of antique sewing machines and the pre-owned sewing machine. One of those we have is an untouched Singer 99k, still with its original paperwork and dated back to the outbreak of World War Two.

The Singer 99k was introduced in 1911 and production continued until the 1950s. It was created in response to the demand for lighter, more portable machines that didn’t need a special table. In the 1920s, Singer introduced the possibility of an electric motor for the machine, making it the first portable electric sewing machine.

The 99k in our warehouse has to have a brilliant story behind it, seeing as the owner never got to use it… We don’t know, but we thought we’d try to imagine what happened to the owner of this beautiful pre-owned machine…

The Story Behind a Pre-Owned Sewing Machine

“This is the Singer 99k.” One of Mrs Gray’s talents was her ability to speak through a mouthful of pins. She patted the box. “I expect we’ll be busy over the next few months.”

Rose sipped her tea. Mrs Gray never needed much in the way of response. You just had to nod here and there. There was something she had to tell her employer, though, and she dreaded saying the words.

“I reckon there’ll be a rush on people getting married, don’t you?”

Rose found herself blushing. She lived in hope of marriage herself, though George had made no mention of it. They’d been courting for five months now and she thought that plenty of time for a young man to make up his mind. The outbreak of war would surely force his hand?

“People might not have time for wedding dresses, though,” Mrs Gray mused, and Rose’s heart sank. She’d set her mind on a beautiful organza, peach-coloured dress. Never mind that her seamstresses’ wages would barely cover the material costs. Or that George was yet to propose.

“We must give them beauty and hope in sad times!”

Mrs Gray stared at her. Responses from Rose were rarely that passionate, but she nodded, slowly.

“Yes, we must. I’ve had enough of black-out curtains, I can tell you.”

“I’ve signed up for work at the factory.” More unexpected words from Rose. The factory did more important work, she reckoned. And the pay was much better.

Mrs Gray made herself another tea. “I don’t know if we really will be busy. If this goes on, they’ll probably start rationing clothes as well as food. I’m too old for another war.”

She shooed Rose out, locking the door to Mrs Gray’s Finest Dresses.

“Come to me before you get married. I’ll make you a dress. No charge.”

Rose beamed at her, the vision of the organza dress appearing once more in front of her eyes. George would indeed propose some two weeks later. And a week after that, he’d be killed – an early casualty of a devastating war.

Want your own, amazing pre-owned sewing machine? Sewing4Everyone has a great collection of refurbished and second hand sewing machines.  

Photo from Charmainezoe on flickr reproduced thanks to Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antique Sewing Machines – Singer 29K

singer 29k sewing machine

Ever wondered what the deal is with Singer antique sewing machines and the numbers? They refer to the patents. Isaac Singer got his first patent for a sewing machine, and that was Singer 1, and thus each new model was numbered accordingly.

The Singer 29K was originally made for industrial use and was favoured by cobblers and other sewers working with goods such as gloves and bags. The machine’s narrow arm and revolving foot could sew in any direction. It has no underneath feed, instead a foot that walks the work through the machine. The small container in the middle of the machine was for oil to lubricate the thread.

The machine can be used to stitch leather, canvas, blankets, fabrics and other material such as rubber. The recommended maximum thickness is about 3mm. Parts are easy enough to pick up too, and there are lots of films on YouTube showing you how to use the machine to best effect.

The Singer 29K was mainly manufactured in Singer’s Scottish factory in Clydebank. Singer initially set up a factory in Glasgow in the 1860s. The country was chosen as it has iron-making industries and cheap labour. The first factory was near Queen Street train station, but production soon outgrew the premises. Manufacturing was moved to Bridgeton, but again in time, the buildings didn’t meet the requirements.

singer 29k sewing machine

In 1882, George McKenzie opened what was to become the largest Singer factory in the world at Kilbowie, Clydebank. Built above the plant’s middle wing was an iconic, huge clock tower – 200 feet tall, and with the name Singer clearly emblazoned on the front for all to see.

The completed factory covered almost a million square feet and employed some 7,000 employees, producing an average 13,000 sewing machines a week. As it was so productive, the US Singer company set up Singer Manufacturing Company Ltd as a UK-registered business. At its peak, the factory employed 16,000 people.

The factory closed in 1980, and the buildings were demolished in 1998.

singer 29k sewing machine

The pre-1970s Singer sewing machines were built to last. They were easy to use and straightforward. The Singer 29K machine is still being used in leather workshops and cobblers all over the world – an example of just how amazing the antique sewing machines are.

Sewing4Everyone sells antique sewing machines, vintage sewing machines and refurbished models. We have a wide selection of machines available. If you’d like to discuss a machine in detail, please contact us on 01782 943667.

 

 

Antique Sewing Machines – the Singer 48K

 

singer 48k sewing machine

When it comes to antique sewing machines, a well-known example if the Singer 48K machine.

The 48k machine was only made at Singer’s Kilbowie factory in Clydebank, Scotland between the years 1900 and 1913. According to the company records, at least half a million machines were made, and at the time were priced at £4 12s 6d – roughly £460 in today’s money. It was Singer’s cheapest selling family sewing machine.

The 48K is a transverse shuttle model – the shuttle moves from left to right. Its other features include

  • A hybrid shuttle
  • A self-setting standard 15×1 needle and not the old round shanked, 12×1
  • An upper tension control sited right of the faceplate
  • A shuttle eject mechanism
  • Black hand wheels – this is probably because some countries taxed machinery import with plated parts, as they were thought of as luxury items.

Attractive Antique Sewing Machines

It is a very pretty-looking machine. Singer only decorated the 48K machines with the Ottoman Carnation ornamentation and the Ottoman Carnation with Indian Star decals. Why? The idea is that India was an emerging market at the start of the 20th Century, and the use of the Indian Star sticker was a deliberate attempt to stimulate the market.

What makes the Singer 48K something of a mystery when it comes to antique sewing machines is that it used technology which was outdated at the time. Other Singer models were better machines, and far more up to date. Why produce something like this?

singer 48k sewing machine

The theory goes that the machine was designed to compete with German-made, high-arm (the high arm allows free movement of the material) machines that had dominated the British market for many years.

Designed for Export?

Another theory is that it was intended for export to developing countries, but the majority of advertising materials (and there aren’t that many) relate to Singer 48K machines being sold in the UK. There are also adverts for it in New York and Russia, though!

Nowadays, the Singer 48K is a rare thing, which perhaps gives credence to the idea that 500,000 machines were not made. Some experts on antique sewing machines have disputed this number, claiming that a sewing machine that only shows up every six months on eBay is very rare. The primary production period seems to be 1902-05.

singer 48k sewing machine

It is thought that production of the machine might have stopped for various reasons. Number one that it just wasn’t that great a sewing machine. Another reason might be the start of the First World War and the drop in imports of German goods. There was no longer a need for a machine that competed with the German high-arm sewing machine.

Whatever – the machine is something of a mystery, and that makes it very exciting indeed!

Sewing4Everyone sells refurbished and antique sewing machines. Check out our range to find out more.

 

 

 

Antique Sewing Machines – the Bonita

More commonly known under the name Moldacot, the Bonita sewing machine slots neatly into the antique sewing machines category.

Have you heard of it? Probably not, unless you’re a super sewing machine geek (and there’s nothing wrong with those fine folks, we answer to the name of sewing machine geek with pride).

Sometimes described as a “mechanical marvel”, the Moldacot was patented in December 1885. The company was formed by Albert Moll and John Cottam in London – can you see where the name comes from? – and the machine (a small pocket sewing machine) was introduced in July 1886.

Antique Sewing Machines – Sales

The company did not make it themselves, but subcontracted instead to manufacturers in Birmingham, Manchester and Germany. The company also sold its product in the colonial countries – Australia and New Zealand.

The UK version was, at the time of production, the smallest sewing machine designed specifically for making tacking adjustments during fittings. How did it work? As you can see from the picture, the machine has a clamp which secured it to a table. Then, the needle bar pushes down and there is a spring return.

Some 60,000 machines were produced in total altogether (although the company had made rather more ambitious projections what they could sell), and even these did not sell well. The company lost £50,000 in two years – a small fortune in those days.

Failed to Sell

Why were the sales so bad? Unfortunately, the machine design hadn’t been fully developed, and it just didn’t work well. Luckily for its creators, Moll and Cottam, when it initially came out, the machine received favourable reviews. The two men sold their interests in the company not long afterwards so they could pursue other business interests. It soon became clear that the machine was…er, c**p and it failed to sell in the expected numbers.

The company eventually became the United Sewing Machine Co., but it went into liquidation not long afterwards.

Where does the ‘Bonita’ name come from? Some of the machines were renamed Bonita (beautiful) in what sounds like a shrewd re-branding exercise. Nothing like changing a name to pretend something is new and improved, huh?

IMG_4565A Collector’s Dream

As with many rare things, the scarcity of the machine makes it much sought after nowadays. Collectors love it – and not just people who like to add a sewing machine or two to their homes. If you’re into Victoriana or you’re an engineering enthusiast, you probably covet the Moldacot too.

There are lots of stories and legends surrounding the Moldacot, its production and the company behind it, helping to add to the antique sewing machines mythology.

Sewing4Everyone stocks a wide range of used and refurbished sewing machines. Check our shop to find your perfectly priced used model.

 

 

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