Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vintage Straight Stitch Smackdown

More sewing machines have followed me home since my last blog post.  It's on the edge of being ridiculous.  I do think about getting rid of some of them.  But I bought them either because I wanted to try a particular model, or because they spoke to me.

I now have five straight stitch machines, and will only use two regularly:  one upstairs and one down.  So I decided to run them four of them head to head in a Straight Stitch Smackdown.  (The fifth is a Singer 301 that I'm saving for travel or classes.)  It's possible that I will dispose of the losers of the smackdown.  Not very likely, but certainly possible.

Singer 15-91

Singer 99, a 3/4 size machine

Dressmaker, probably another 15 clone

ModernAge 250, an obvious Singer 15 clone


I have a stack of 100 9-patches, pieced from 2.5 inch scrap squares.  I wanted a solid color in between, and snagged some lovely magenta cotton from Leah Day at Day Style Designs when she had a sale at the turn of the year.  Each machine got a stack of 9-patches and plain squares which I will pair up and sew together.


In addition to testing the machines, I want to road test three quilting feet.

 From right to left:
  • A vintage low-shank gauge foot that showed up in a box of Singer attachments.  These originally had 4 or 5 gauges but this is the only gauge that came with it.  There is a lever in the back that allows you to adjust the gauge.
  • A generic low-shank snap-on flat quilting foot.
  • A Janome low-shank snap-on quilting foot with a guide on the right hand side.
Stay tuned for the exciting results of the smackdown!

Have more than one straight stitch machine yourself?  Why not join the smackdown?

There are no rules.

Just choose any project and sew on more than one machine.  Post comments here as we go along, or email me with comments and/or photos.  Since this blog only has a few followers, most of whom are non-sewing relatives or personal friends of mine, the chances are EXCELLENT that I will post your results here. 

I thought about making up a checklist but decided that a completely open ended approach would be best.  I'll sew on each machine and make notes of anything that seems important.  In future posts I'll describe the machines and the results I get from each one.

And yes, it has been a couple of months since the last blog post.  If you are one of the aforementioned family or friends, you know why.  If not, you probably have life interrupt your own sewing from time to time!   Life is behaving itself better now and shouldn't interfere with the
Vintage Straight Stitch Smackdown


  1. Hi there!
    Very unique and fun idea you have there.. As someone who owns both a SINGER 15 model and a SINGER 99K, I think I know already which of these two I prefer.. no need to do extensive tests... although that would be interesting...
    My SINGER 15 seems much more smooth and enjoyable to sew with than the 99K. Perhaps I need to do some adjustments to the bobbin area because there is a clicking noise as the machine works.. not sure if this is normal or not..
    So yeah, carry on.. and good luck with the tests.. will be interesting to see what your results will be... Later then...

  2. I only have 1 singer, a 301A. Haven't used it lately though, but it runs like a charm. I use my Juki to piece and quilt small stuff, and a Juki on a frame for larger stuff. I wish I had more room for more machines.

  3. Your "Dressmaker" may be a badged White sewing machine manufactured in Japan. You can check photos posted here: http://home-and-garden.webshots.com/album/560930211PiRjrJ
    I have a Dressmaker--not the same as yours--which is a White.

  4. You could convert some of these to treadle machines, then you'd have more options. I have a Singer 15 treadle (1896) that is great. It runs smooth. I haven't seen a 3/4 machine in person yet. I like the look of the green machine, too. Have fun checking these ladies out.

  5. Ok I'll bite. I have a few strait stitch machine and just began a simple quilt. I have a 1/4" inch foot and a gauge foot so will use those as you are.

  6. This will be interesting to watch, wish I had the time to participate! Awesome blog!

  7. haha, i'm just jealous you have TIME for stuff like this!! :)

  8. I love my Singer 15-91. I keep jean thread in it for sewing jeans and denim.

    Your Modern Age 250 is a striking machine. I would keep it and convert it to a treadle.

    The Dressmaker, if it is a White, probably has a lovely cabinet. The quality of the cabinet is something that is important to me. I like the color of the machine.

    The 99 would be posted on Craigslist.

    I would love to see the pictures of your cabinets too. Love the Modern Age.

  9. @Stuart: Thanks a bunch. I suspect I will prefer the 15 to the 99 also, but the 99 sure is cute.
    @Wilma: I quilt on a frame, too, and use my Pfaff 1221 for that. I've got room because the nest is empty and nobody was using the downstairs family room anymore. So it is mine, mine, all mine!
    @acoelke: thanks for the link, you have an awesome collection also. My Dressmaker does look a lot like your Whites. It's the tension on the left hand side rather than the front that made me think my Dressmaker might be a 15 clone. It's a terrific machine (I've had it for years, the other 3 in the smackdown are "new").
    @the other Cheryl: I've got a 66 treadle already and frankly only like it for the family sentimental value and as a novelty--and if the power fails! (and cause I LOVE TreadleOn and want to stay there!) I'm planning to convert a 306 to treadle and will undoubtedly blog about it sometime between now and 2025. Love those decorative stitches.
    @yarndiva: Whoo Hoo! another participant! Keep me posted on your progress and send photos too if you can.
    @Gwen and geogeek: I only have time because I am retired. Messing with sewing machines is now my full time preoccupation!

  10. @Ashley: I will be talking about (and showing pictures) of the cabinets in a future post. stay tuned! The Modern Age is a portable, in one of those carrying cases with the fabric over wood, originally in the same color scheme as the machine (which must have been adorable), but now sadly tatty looking.

  11. This looks like a lot of fun. I guess I have been doing this without knowing it for about 2 years. Anyway ever since I got my first featherweight. You know who won my smackdown? It was my beige 301 that my sister picked up at a garage sale for 5 dollars.

    I love the featherweights and my two black 301's look awsome, but the beige one is the one that sews like silk.

    I also have a 128. It was my first vintage machine and I owned it for years before I actually used it. They are so beautiful! Mine is now a handcrank too.

    Have fun! You might make me go out and get a model 15. I don't have one that is in working condition.


  12. I have some guages which would fit your foot - didn't know what they were till I saw that one...


  13. @Helen: I love the vintage feet and attachments that I find at the thrift shops, and the internet is a wonderful tool for figuring out what the heck they are.


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