Vintage sewing machine adventures: part 5 — vintage sewing machine no. 2

Possible alternative title for this post: You need three before it counts as a collection, right?

A trip to an antiques and collectibles fair recently ended up with me bringing home another vintage sewing machine:

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

It is another Singer, this time the hand-cranked No. 20. It is probably not clear in the pictures but it’s only about 6″ high since it was designed a child’s machine.

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

Like my first vintage machine, it was in pretty good condition when I bought it and just needs a little bit of oil and cleaning.

There are lots of nice little touches due it to having been designed as a first machine, like the clear numbers shown below to guide you in threading the machine…

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

… and the arrows to show you which direction to turn the hand-wheel.

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

Unfortunately, these machines don’t have serial numbers so they’re not quite as easy to date as the full-size Singers. A little bit of internet research leads me to believe that this machine was probably made some time after 1926 and before the 1950’s so from the same time period as my treadle machine.

One of the best things about this machine is that it still has its original box:

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

The caption above the picture on the front says “As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined.” The machine itself is described as being both “Practical and instructive” and “Useful and amusing”. I certainly hope so!

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

Vintage sewing machine adventures: part 4 — putting the machine away

Someone asked for details of whether or not my vintage Singer machine folds into itself so I thought I’d take some quick photos to show how it works.

The “extra” bit of wood in the picture below usually attaches to the left-hand side of the table when not in use. Otherwise the picture shows the machine set up for use.

Vintage Singer sewing machine

The machine tips back slightly so that the piece of table-top in front can be lifted.

Vintage Singer sewing machine

With that out of the way that machine swings right down into the body of the table.

Vintage Singer sewing machine

With the machine inside, the first piece of the top can be replaced.

Vintage Singer sewing machine

Then the “extra” bit fits into the remaining space to complete the table-top.

Vintage Singer sewing machine

I’m slightly ashamed to admit that this is how the machine currently spends most of its time. I did get a quick lesson in how to use the treadle last time my mum visited so I just need to find the time to practise.

Vintage sewing machine adventures: part 3 — the other bits

As a child, I loved rooting through my mum’s sewing basket trying to work out what all the different bits and pieces were and how they were used. No matter how much time I spent looking through that basket, there always seemed to be something that I hadn’t seen before.

Contents of the drawer

That’s why when the salesman in the junk shop showed me that the sewing machine table drawers were filled with attachments for the machine and other craft-related paraphernalia I knew I had to buy it. I’ve already talked about the sewing machine parts but here are some of my other favourite bits.

Punchcraft tool — If it hadn’t been for the fact that my mum used to have a couple of punchcraft kits, I might never have worked out was this was. Punchcraft is a way of creating pictures on fabric by “punching” yarn or thread through the fabric to create little loops. (It turns out that the tool can also be used to make holes in leather treadle belts when repairing vintage sewing machines.)

Punchcraft tool

A Turkey Rug Wool gauge — used for cutting lengths of wool to the right size for rug-making. You wind the wool round and round the gauge and then your scissors or knife slide down the groove to cut the lengths. I’ve never tried rug-making so I’ve no idea what you do after that!

Turkey Rug Wool Gauge

Turkey Rug Wool Gauge

Buttons — none that are particularly exciting but you can never have too many buttons!


Hooks, clasps and pins — I love that some of these (and some of the buttons) have small pieces of fabric attached, showing that they’ve been saved from old clothing.

Hooks and clasps

Screws, picture hooks and curtain hooks — It’s always reassuring to see that other people end up with weird collections of DIY oddments in their craft stuff.

Assorted screws and picture and curtain hooks

Blue sequinned triangle — part of a fancy dress costume, perhaps?

Blue sequinned triangle

Vintage sewing machine adventures, part 2 – Identifying the parts

One of the first things I did with the sewing machine was to empty the drawers and sort the contents into sewing machine parts and everything else. The first picture below shows what I first thought were all the sewing machine related parts (not including bobbins, screwdrivers, needles and the lint brush since those didn’t require any research to identify).

The attachments

My next task was to work out what each of these was. Two things made this reasonably straightforward. Firstly, the sewing machine came with its manual, which has pictures of most of the parts in use.  Secondly, this is a Singer machine. All Singer parts are stamped with “Simanco” and the serial number of the part. A quick trip to Google to search for serial numbers and most of the rest were identified.

The harder part is going to be working out how to use them!

Below is a full inventory of the attachments I have with pictures and serial numbers in case this helps anyone else trying to identify parts.

Continue reading “Vintage sewing machine adventures, part 2 – Identifying the parts”

Vintage sewing machine adventures – part 1

Steven and I took a day-trip to Whitstable yesterday to celebrate my first day of freedom after the latest batch of exams. It was just supposed to be a nice trip in the car with some lunch, a wander round some shops and then home again. Except that one of the shops, a small junk shop right on the sea-front, had this:

Singer Model 15K sewing machine

A 1940s Model 15K Singer treadle sewing machine and treadle table in what appeared to be almost working order.

Singer Model 15K sewing machine

And, yes, that is our lounge that it’s now sitting in.

The advantage of buying a Singer machine is that there is a lot of information out there on how to identify and date them. Looking up the serial number of our machine on the Singer website, I identified the type and learned that it was one of a batch of 300,000 built in Clydebank, Scotland between November 1945 and August 1946. In fact, I spent almost the entire evening reading about the history of the Singer Manufacturing Company and the factory in Clydebank.


I love the detailing and aesthetic of these machines and have been admiring them from afar for years. It’s so pretty that we decided it would look great as a piece of furniture even if we never got it working, although both of us thought we’d like to see it sew something at least once. However, the more I read about these machines and how good they are for sewing and, in particular, quilting, the more tempted I am to get it fully set up and learn how to use it properly.

I don’t think it will be too difficult (famous last words!) to get it working properly again. The machine needs a new belt (already ordered), a good clean and some oil, and the woodwork needs some restoration. The ironwork just needs cleaned. The worst part is going to be removing all the dead spiders from the inside.

The treadle

The other advantage of getting it working is that it came with a wide range of different attachments for hemming, quilting, and attaching cord and bindings that would cost me a fortune to buy for my electric machine. More details of those and the other contents of the table drawers to come in my next post.