Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Did You Get For Christmas?

I'll show you mine.....
Singer 285K, a 3/4 size machine circa 1965

This showed up under the Christmas tree.  Jennie, recipient of one of my Singer 401s,  bestowed this upon DD Emily to pass along to me.  Ah, sewing machine karma. 

This absolutely adorable machine is widely considered to be one of the worst of the all-metal vintage Singers ever.  You can read a thorough and scathing review of this machine here.  (I would credit the author by name if I could find a name, btw.)  It's a good review and I could not have said it any better, or taken better pictures.

I first read this review several months ago and have been longing to get my hands on one of these ever since.  The weirdo lower drive mechanism was every bit as fascinating as I had hoped.  What WERE they thinking?  The reviewer suggests that they were smoking crack, an anachronistic drug reference that tells you that the reviewer was not around in the mid-1960's.

It came with a case in excellent condition, both cosmetically and structurally.  Word on the boards is that plastic cases weren't really designed to hold cast iron machines for decades and most have crumbled by now.

The original owner later added a piece of rainbow ribbon to the handle, I assume.  A very early-1970's touch.  I was there and I remember these things.  Much of the joy of vintage is the trip down memory lane.  And if it turns out I was wrong and the rainbow ribbon was original to the case in 1965, well, I still will have enjoyed the trip.

The DDs gave me LOTS of great books, both old and new, including:
Perfect Pineapples
another book on paper pieced pineapples that I can't find on Amazon now
Adventures in Bookbinding
Celtic, Viking & Anglo-Saxon Embroidery: The Art & Embroidery of Jan Messent
which plays VERY nicely with the bookbinding book.  And if you don't know of Jan Messent, you are not living a full and rich life.  Just saying.

And as if that wasn't overwhelming enough, I also got Persia Wooley's Guinevere trilogy.  Plays nicely with Jan Messent's work, too!
Child of the Northern Spring
Queen of the Summer Stars
Guinevere, the Legend in Autumn
If you also are a big fan of Arthuriana, you know that many, many, MANY authors have tackled the Matter of Britain. I'll pick up just about anything Arthurian in the thrift store, but it doesn't take more than two paragraphs to discover what dreck most of them are.  What a joy to find something worth reading!  I have finished Child of the Northern Spring and find Wooley's Gwen entirely convincing as a Celtic queen, and a nice antidote to Marion Zimmer Bradley's insipid Gwen.  Other than Guinevere, I DO love The Mists of Avalon though, which also views the Arthurian world through the eyes of women.

Do you have a favorite author of books about King Arthur's court?  I would really love to know, please post a comment.  After all, life is about more than sewing machines, isn't it?  ISN'T IT?..................

Back to the Singer 285K:  I love it even with, or especially because of, its fascinating flaws.  Mine has two speeds:  off and 100 m.p.h.  It's one of the fastest machines I have run, scary fast and with little speed control.  I haven't tried it with a hand crank yet, which would certainly solve the speed problem, and at the slow pace of a hand crank the vibrations would be much less of a problem.  A project for a rainy day.

We had a wonderful family holiday, the kind everyone thinks they are supposed to have, but that does not always happen for whatever reasons.  A real Norman Rockwell experience.  Next year we will probably go back to being normal!


  1. I have this very machine and have used it ever since I received for my birthday when I was 12. My mother bought it used at our favorite sewing shop, spending her last penny. I stil thank her to this day for such a great gift that has kept gifting me over and over and over.

  2. Just received my 285K yesterday & found that it was born on Nov. 7, 1964. Mine runs very well...forming beautiful stitches after some simple adjustments...just some minor problems that taking it in for a tune up will cure. It won't sew in reverse, the slide plate needs to be either adjusted or replaced & needs a new spool pin. The previous owner did not clean or oil it, so I got busy & after a waxing the finish, my little gem looks & runs beautifully...will have to set it in a new case, as mine just about crumbled in my hands as I touched it. Found a new case made especially for 3/4 size machines that I have purchased for my Singer 185K & my Spartan 192K & will now get for my new Singer 285K as well...I just love these solid old machines...what a great sewing experience......Howard


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