What Was Your First Sewing Machine?

Man, it has been one heck of a summer… Covid 19, shop inventory demand far in excess of what I can deliver, unforeseen circumstances that take priority over anything else… In short, it has been a while since I sat down long enough to add new content to my site! All the while, I keep thinking about the next post…

A tutorial? … What topic?

A restoration? … What machine? …

Building my inventory? … How many hours in a day?

Then I thought… stop thinking so much and focus on the real reason for my interest in restoring the many quality precision vintage sewing machines I have encountered. Then another thought, how did I get here?

Well, it began with the childhood memory of my Mom’s 1938 vintage Singer 201-2 sewing machine. I didn’t know how to sew as a kid and I don’t know how to sew now, but I remember that machine. I still have it and despite my fondness for restoring 201’s, I have not done anything to hers except to rewire the motor. It has all of the memories preserved in it’s condition, it still sews great, and I will let it be!

I used to play with it when I was a kid. It sewed through tin cans, play dough, paper, plastic, and anything else I could get under the needle. All done when she was not looking and my deeds lay undiscovered until she sat down to use the machine. All indelible memories etched in my mind.

Every machine has it’s unique history and fond memories attached to it. This quality alone raises them above all others. I have Customer’s tell me about their Mother’s or Grandmother’s sewing machine, and what it meant to them learning to sew with it. While their experiences are different, the effect is always the same… fond memories. Like birthdays, the smell of Mom’s cooking, milestones, and other achievements in life, these experiences are all memories that reside in the recesses of our minds and they are worth recalling… warm, comforting, and welcomed.

No doubt it is the same for you so, please share your first sewing memories and comment here… I would really like to know. Hopefully, the topic alone will bring fond memories flooding back to you.

Thanks for reading! I feel better for sharing my memories of “Mom’s machine” with you and would I love to hear yours!

Lee

Published by pungoliving

First and foremost, I decided to share some of my experiences with vintage all metal sewing machines. It is a natural progression of my life experience exercising my hands and my mind. My background is a simple story... graduating High school, I wanted a trade. I landed an apprenticeship at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in welding. 5 years later after earning certification and working in many different environments, I decided to enroll in College and earn an Engineering. At the same time, I married a wonderful girl and started a new life. Graduating College with a degree in Structural Engineering, I began a 35 year career in the Federal Government. Along the way, we were blessed with 3 beautiful children. Earning a Masters degree in Engineering and registration as a Professional Engineer I worked for the benefit of my family and my Country. Over the years, I have pursued many different hobbies... woodworking, car mechanics, astronomy, and taking apart and putting together all sorts of things. Pretty much anything I could put my mind and my hands into. So now, many years later, I am retired and finally able to wile away my days at home with the love of my life. Her interests have always been in sync with mine, but spending so much free time with her, I realized how broad her talents are! One interest she is particularly fond of is sewing. It didn't take me long to put 2+2 together and realize that I could do something with this. So, acquiring, adjusting, servicing, and restoring sewing machines was a win-win. I have a hobby that is detailed, involves tinkering with precision engineered high quality manufactured machines, while she has an opportunity to sew on various different makes and models of sewing machines. While there are many that have information on line, and what I have to say more than likely has already been said, I wanted to contribute to that conversation and learning gleaned from my experience and research.

17 thoughts on “What Was Your First Sewing Machine?

  1. I have wonderful memories of my mom’s beige Singer 301a. I fondly remember my proud first sewing project (a green vest for a doll) that was followed by a multitude of projects: dresses and skirts and tops and pants and quilts and stuffed animals. The machine was very simple – it had a straight stitch and a buttonhole attachment and that’s it, but it was a workhorse, constantly in use sewing and repairing clothing in our house of eight kids. I have it still – it’s sitting in my son’s garage in California with a broken belt, and after we’re able to travel again, I will give it the care and attention it deserves.

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    1. There are three models of the necchi sewing machine. The first one is called the supernova bu model which is basically a larger version of the normal bu model. This model has an enhanced storage capacity, which makes it perfect for anyone who needs to make a lot of projects. The second is the supernova buccaliflex model which is basically the same product as the supernova bu model but with a few minor differences. Finally, the third model is called the supernova sanatecch model which is the most modern model of this kind of machine. The main differences between the models are the size and the number of features.

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      1. Hello Tina,

        These old vintage Necchi’s are very sturdy precision machines… Don’t forget about the BF model… it’s a straight stitch machine, but very similar to the BU Mira.

        Thanks for your input!

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  2. The machine I used as a child was my mom’s vintage black crinkle finish Kenmore. I don’t know if it even had reverse. I seem to remember sinking the needle, raising the pressure foot, and turning the fabric around to backtack. I believe it also threaded right to left like the 201-2. The first machine I bought on my own was a Bernina Activa 130 in 1999. Now I love vintage Singers and my modern machines (Baby Lock and Bernina). My favorite vintage SM is probably my 1938 201-2k.

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    1. Thanks for your memory! Those old Kenmores were made by White and are very distinctive machines… friction drive motors have a “growl” when they run and they sound different from any other. Makes a great stitch though! Many are still running strong today.

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  3. I now own my moms sewing machine that I learned on, it’s a Kenmore 158.1316. She bought it brand new when I was 9 or 10. I was always fascinated with it but she didn’t want me to touch it. When I was 13, I used to sneak into her room and use it when she was at work, very carefully putting everything back how it was. When I was 15 she finally gave me permission to use it. The first project I made was a fully pleated kilt. I dream big. Actually made 2 of them, one for my best friend and one for me.

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  4. I learned to sew on my mom’s PFAFF 332. I think she purchased it from the PX either in England or Germany when she was newly married to my Father who was in the Air Force and stationed there.

    My sister’s and I didn’t find my mother’s machine when we were sorting through her things after she died so I don’t know what happened to it, but a few years ago, I found the same machine listed for sell on eBay. I bought it from a woman who had inherited it from her mother in law. She told me she had sewn all of her children’s clothes on it but now at her stage of life she was downsizing and moving away so she decided to list it for sale.

    I brought it home, oiled it up and have been enjoying it for the past few years. Recently the engine belt broke on it and I was fortunate to find someone locally who installed a new belt, oiled it well and tuned it up.

    I can’t describe the joy I feel when I sit in front of this machine. I think of the generations of women who have used the machine to sew things for their homes and their loved ones and I remember my mother and some of the early projects I struggled through when I was learning this skill.

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    1. Hello Julie,

      It is wonderful to hear stories of folk’s fond memories and recollections of their sewing experiences. Every vintage machine with 60, 70, or even more years old has them… You are very fortunate to have a story.

      Thank you for sharing it and have a wonderful day!

      Lee

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My mother began teaching me to sew roughly 60 years ago. Her machine was a 1948 or 49 White Rotary Model 77 straight stitch. I was just a little thing around 9 or 10, but I was immediately hooked. I remember how hard it was for me to change the needle with my little fingers. But I managed and began making lots of “Jill” Doll clothes. Most readers won’t remember Jill, she was a Barbie predecessor of the 1950’s but much more naturally shaped. Then I made my own first garment, a black cowgirl skirt. At least that’s what I called it and even though it was most likely terrible Mom allowed me to wear it outside so it must have covered me decently. When I was a teen, Mom and Dad bought me my Kenmore 158-14001. I was thrilled because it was a zig-zag, could do buttonholes and blind hemming. Mom was happy too – probably because she didn’t have to wait to use her machine any more!
    I still have Mom’s machine. It sits in it’s cabinet where I can see it every day. Once I finish my current project, I’m going to use the duplicate machine I bought to begin refurbishing it. It’s very sentimental to me as I can still visualize her sitting at it making something for me or my sister.

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    1. Good evening Suzanne,

      Thank you so much for sharing your memory. It’s so wonderful because reading it brought back memories from my childhood. The White 77 and these vintage White machines are in a league of their own,,, the growl they make sewing, direct friction drive, and the great stitch are quite impressive. I have a model 77 and a beautiful White Family Rotary. They are truly under appreciated. Your 1400 is another fine capable machine… every stitch you need to sew a garment and a few more built in. Sews anything without complaint… my Wife has a 1400 and keeps it, uses it occasionally, and won’t part with it.

      Good luck with restoring your White and please let me know if I can be of any assistance to you!
      Lee

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      1. Thank you for your kind offer of help Lee! I’ll contact you should I need it.

        I agree with your wife completely. The 1400 is a gem of a machine; it just goes and goes and will do everything I need. I prize it as this model was my very own first machine. And like your wife, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I also have a 120-490, a 158-1880, a 158-1980 and one of the much loved Mini-Kennies, the 1040. I adore that “little girl” as well, she’s great for sewing knits and handles a twin-needle magnificently. She’s quiet, dependable and very useful. Kenmore knew what they were doing when they contracted with Maruzen to build these beauties.

        It’s delightful to communicate with others who shares similar memories.

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  6. What a great thread!

    I have many memories of my mother’s sewing machine from when I was a child, but no memory of its make or model. I know it was a straight stitch, it was green, there was something unusual about the way it threaded and that’s pretty much all I know. And try as I might I can’t find anything on the web that looks like her machine. I have a scrap of part of a parts list that shows the nose of the machine, which is unusual looking, and a model number but so far I’ve had no success in figuring out what it was.

    It became non-functional and she traded it in on a new Singer machine. She wanted to start doing sewing projects after not sewing for many years and she decided she needed a new machine. She passed away soon after it was delivered and never used the new machine. She was close to 100 years old. I have her new machine and to me it represents so much about her, her determination, her spirit. She was close to 100 and she had new projects in mind and decided to buy herself a new Singer with all the bells and whistles and get going on her projects. While I would have loved to have her old machine, every time I look at this one, I’m reminded that to my mother, age was just a number, and a number that she was happy to ignore. What was important was to plan for the future and get to work on making those plans a reality.

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    1. That’s a wonderful story. The reasons I choose to restore vintage sewing machines over any other retirement hobby is because they represent so much more than just an appliance. One reason for this is because they hold memories… all of them fond. The other unique characteristic they have is their durability. THESo well built that they last thru the ages… from generation to generation… and the stories and memories they hold is passed on from one to the next.

      I have acquired many sewing machines and during a restoration I always wonder what it’s story is. The machine gives me some clues and I can tell if it was well used, used often, and if it was taken care of, but the rest of it I can only guess. I like to think that by restoring them to as near new condition as possible may close one chapter of it’s history and allow a new chapter to begin.

      If you email me a picture of the parts list and a model number, I might be able to help you identify her old machine!

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  7. Well thanks to Lee, I now know that my mother’s machine was a White Rotary, made by Juki. Looking at pictures of this machine on the web has brought back even more warm memories. Thanks Lee!

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