I have become increasingly interested in vintage Singer sewing machines. Mind you, I said vintage...not antique! While I think the oldie-oldies are pretty and quaint, I don't find them as attractive as the little bit newer ones. I'm talking 1950-1960 era, the true workhorses, electric and made so well they are still running today. I decided I wanted one. While I love my Juki and I have a cheapie Singer as a backup, I really wanted a vintage machine. What to do but go shopping? I asked Dash to take me to two antique malls nearby.
I spotted this pink box in the first one!
Everything was inside, including the connecting screw that is almost always missing. The space-age clamshell box is adorable. It was mine for less than $5 even though I didn't even own a machine it would connect to! I did see a couple of machines in that first mall but alas, not what I was after.
Halfway through the second mall I spotted a familiar cabinet all closed up and half hidden under a display shelf. I peeked underneath and saw a machine in the dusty recesses. I called Dash over and together we dug it out from under its burden and I opened the top.
A Singer 503. wow.
The price sticker:
I dashed to the front of the store and asked the lady for an electric outlet. The light came on and the motor worked! Poor thing had been sitting there, buried in junk, since 2014. Mine for a mere $35.
I googled on the way home that the 503 uses the buttonholer that comes in the pink clamshell box. Dash swears this was a SET UP, that I knew the two items were there and we were merely going to pick them up! But no, it was truly an adventure...
The Singer 503 was released in 1961 in the height of the space craze. People call this model the Rocketeer and it is rather "Jetson's" in styling isn't it? I have him cleaned up, oiled and sewing like nobodies business. Oh, dear I'm hooked!
I next asked Dash to go to Claremore, Oklahoma. where they have a huge gathering of antique shops. Dash was game for that but he wanted to go extra early so we could eat breakfast at Hugo's before any shopping. This meant an hour and 45 minute drive, plus a good long wait in line before eating but Hugo's bacon is to die for! Dash and I shared these plates and could not finish.
The second shop we went to was a large mall, super squirrelly inside and easy to get lost and turned around. I spotted this pink Wilson sewing box. It was full of notions and I saved what I liked but most of the stuff shown here is my eBay purchases for the Rocketeer.
The 503 Rocketeer uses those black Bakelite Tophat cams to do fancy stitches. I had found a large set on eBay and snapped them up. I adore the pink Wilson box and now I have someplace nice to store all the cams in. Dash and I were unlucky for the rest of the day and only bought the box, and breakfast...the breakfast would have been worth the whole trip!
Looking at eBay can be dangerous. I saw this lovely Singer 301 with no bids at a reasonable price. Sold! This was the machine I was originally interested in finding. The 301 is a straight stitch only machine. It can whiz by at 1500 stitches a minute if you could keep up. I unboxed excitedly, took it apart and oiled and lubed and she took off like a racehorse, not bad for an oldie 1956 machine!
Sewing on these vintage beauties has a bit of a learning curve when you are used to sewing on modern machines. They look different, sound different, smell different, feel different! Sound? The vintage machines sound like a miniature jet plane revving up! Not loud at all but very different! Where I have learned even the tiniest sound my Juki makes (I can tell when it misses a stitch) and can tap out a single stitch on the foot pedal the vintage foot pedal looks like this:
1950's era ergonomics! You rest your foot against the right peg and roll your foot left on the button. It is taking some getting used to! The cabinet the Rocketeer came in has a knee control. This foot pedal goes inside and you control with a push of the knee. I just need Dash to help me put the Rocketeer back into the cabinet now they are all cleaned up.
I have been watching lots of YouTube videos and reading blogs and other websites about these vintage machines. I am so interested! One day, I'd love to learn how to adjust and repair them formally. For now, I shall watch videos. And learn!
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