Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Machine For Michael: Blunders # 1 and 1A. And a useless giveaway

About a month ago I ran into my old buddy Michael at a party.  We got to talking about sewing, since that is the only topic in my brain these days.  Michael reminisced about a time back in the day when he hung out with theatrical costumiers.  He said he would love to learn to sew and was thinking about buying a machine.   He wants to duplicate some high-end home dec items at low-end prices.  I made him promise to let me find him a machine and he had no trouble with the concept that the old vintage machines are a hundred times better (conservative underestimate) than the new plastic ones, even plastic ones costing thousands of dollars.  Some people can’t wrap their minds around this.  I told him I was sure I could put a package together for under $50.

So the hunt was on.  I used this as an excuse to comb the thrift stores near and far.  And I always check CraigsList every day.

And along the way I made some serious blunders and learned a lot.  I don’t mind the blunders if I learn something.  My low income prevents me from making costly mistakes.

Blunder #1:  The Singer 457
No excuses for me here:  I WAS WARNED.  The vintage singers yahoo group has a wealth of information, and I know how to search the archives, so I knew in advance that this puppy had plastic gears.  But I have always thought that its configuration would be perfect for a beginner:  straight, zig-zag AND a blind stitch.  That’s 99.9% of what anyone needs.  $25 at habitat and it had TWO foot controllers.  I didn’t fire it up, but turned the handwheel and it looked like it was working.  But when I got it home, guess what, the plastic gear was broken.  And yes, it would make a stitch or two before stalling out.  I spent a pleasant Sunday morning cannibalizing it for parts and discovered a mint green bobbin winder tire inside, perfect for my “new” Singer 15-125.  Or maybe this is bait for the pristine, mint green, Singer 319 that I long for.

No net loss anyway, the parts are worth more than $25.

Blunder #1A:  The OTHER Singer 457
Prior to all this I got into a conversation with a woman at Habitat over another 457.  She was considering buying it for the cabinet for a machine she already had.  We later exchanged a few emails and I knew she wanted to offload the 457.  I offered her the $10 she had paid just for the machine.   All this took a while and by the time she got back to me about it I had bought the 457 mentioned above and discovered the broken plastic gear.  Anyhow, this one has worked out well enough because we met for lunch and had a terrific time.  Our only dispute was over payment:  I wanted to pay her, she wasn't willing to take money for a broken machine!    It has no foot controller and the bobbin was not turning, so this one is just another dead 457.  I cannibalized this one also, but sadly it had an ordinary black bobbin winder tire and not the mint green one I was hoping for.

The first one I bought came with a manual.  I will never buy another 457, although I would take donations just in case there was another mint green bobbin winder tire inside.  I really, really hope that none of you own a 457, but if you do and need a manual, send me your snail mail address.  First come, first served, no charge.  

You could however, if you liked, pay it forward and do something nice for someone else.  Or you could send me a pristine, mint green, 319.  I wouldn't say no to that.


  1. I'd love to have the mint green bobbin wheel winder to go with my green 15-125. What a find.

  2. @Rainbows: You know you've got it bad when you get excited over a bobbin winder tire! I now want to peer into the guts of all the worthless models of Singers I see to look for a green bobbin tire.

  3. Hey, I bought a few boxes of attachments for a Singer 603 Touch-n-Sew if you know anyone who needs them. I don't know what I was thinking when I bought them.

  4. Thank you again for the manual! Let's hope I can this albatross up and running!

  5. Great Blog!! That was amazing. Your thought processing is wonderful. The way you tell the thing is awesome. You are really a master


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