It’s not over till it’s over . . . .


Fargosmom here – making a brief introduction.  I was dismayed, as many of you may have been, to think that this great blog might disappear into the ether.  I am new to the world of antique sewing machines, and I came to this blog in search of some basic technical information.  What I found was much more – an archive of useful information, not only packaged in a clean format, but accompanied by some absolutely lovely writing, and a wry and witty personality to back it up.  I’ve never met Sid or Elsie, but I wish they were my next door neighbors.

So I’m here to do my feeble best to keep this resource available while S & E ride off into the sunset.  I wish them health, happiness, and a long future with no tangled bobbins in sight.

To the rest of us, here’s to keeping those old iron ladies stitching.

Last post … or at least my last post


OK … quite a few people seem to have been dismayed by the thought of this blog vanishing, so the good news now is that it’s not going to.  I am, but the blog isn’t.

It’s now staying at this URL, although Mission Control will henceforth be in southern California rather than southern England, thanks to fargosmom who’s kindly volunteered to take it over.

I’ll be keeping my Elna Grasshopper blog going, but Elsie and I are out of here now, and we leave you in the tender care of fargosmom.

Cheers folks 🙂

The End is Nigh


Just so that it doesn’t come as a surprise and you think the aliens have abducted this blog, you need to know that its days are now numbered.  Quite what that number is I’m not sure, but it’s probably around 80.  And when its number’s up, I guess it will just do whatever it is that obsolete blogs do.

In other words the domain registration for this URL comes up for renewal again in June (or maybe July – I can’t find the email from WordPress right now), and I won’t be renewing it.  Why not?  In a word, I have neither the time now nor the inclination to continue with it – even though it’s still averaging 200 visitors and 400 page views per day.  Heck, I can’t even keep my Grasshopper blog up to speed, which needs nothing like the same amount of work!

So there you go.

When I find out the exact date of its demise, I’ll let you know …

This ‘n’ that … and the last of the bargains in the basement



First off this week, I’ve been meaning to post this picture ever since Andrew kindly sent it to me.  This is the adaptor I was referring to in November when I was rambling on about how once upon a time people could plug things like a sewing machine into a table lamp or indeed a pendant light fitting and still get to see what they were doing.

Andrew’s is actually the posh version with the push switch controlling the socket on the side, and as it’s seen in the picture, both bulbs will light up when the whole shebang’s plugged into a light fitting.  When that red push switch is pushed back towards the camera (from the other side of the adaptor), only the “straight ahead” bulb is lit.  Substitute the connector on your sewing machine for that bulb on the side and off you go!  For total authenticity though, make sure the whole thing’s plugged into a light fitting which has a parchment shade which smells hot and has both scorch marks and a looped decorative trim dangling all the way round it …

Moving on, I must just mention before I forget that Joan, one of the ladies in the States who’s bought a fair few bits and pieces from us over the last year or so, has recently celebrated her 62nd wedding anniversary!  That certainly makes our own 31 years seem a bit insignificant, but we were interested to learn of Joan’s theory that collecting interesting sewing things contributes greatly to longevity.  Whatever, all the very best from us to Joan and Jim in Michigan 🙂

And now we get to today’s news, which is that from now on this blog’s being relegated to the back burner.  And of course you want to know why, so I’d better tell you …

Two years ago today, Elsie was diagnosed with cancer.  When I started this blog five months later, we’d done the surgery, we’d just finished chemotherapy, and it gave us something different to think about and do while we waited to start radiotherapy.  We had a few ups and downs after radio and then more surgery, but now it’s just a matter of a hormone pill a day for another three and a half years, and fingers crossed it’s all good 🙂

So … Elsie and I need to move on.  We’ve thinned out the Singer collection a bit and gained some much-needed space.  We have other fish to fry, and I have my Elna Grasshopper blog which really is in dire need of bringing up to speed.  Seeing as how that’s very much a minority interest compared to the world of vintage Singers and we’re only talking about one particular machine, it won’t eat up as much of my time as this blog has and the correspondence which it generates does.  At least that’s the plan.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, I’ve just updated the bargain basement page to show accurately what we have left, so if there’s anything there that you fancy,  get in quick and grab yourself a bargain because when they’re gone, they’re gone.  Which has to be one of the most banal and singulary stupid slogans ever, but never mind.

Have a good weekend folks, and be happy.

Edited to add In view of the comments that are being posted, we’d both like to say thank you for your very kind words, and to point out that I will still be rambling on from time to time, only on the Elna Grasshopper blog.   So do check it out from time to time.  Who knows, you might even develop an interest in the amazing little green thing yourself …

Gosh. Now look what we’ve done …


All American Pressure Canner Regular readers will recognise Stoner the Bear, but I guess it’ll mainly be our American readers who will also recognise that shiny thing with knobs on.

Yep, we’ve gone and bought ourselves a genuine (pronounced gen-yoo-ein) All American Pressure Canner, and it arrived at lunchtime today having left Wisconsin just three days ago.

We long ago realised that nobody in Europe makes a decent pressure canner, so if we wanted one we’d be stuck with buying from the States via Amazon , but we always said we couldn’t justify paying the horrendous price for the real deal plus shipping.  Having done all the research, though, we knew we wouldn’t be happy with anything less than an All American, so there the matter rested.

Or it did until last week, when I finally said “Sod it, we’re only old once, so let’s buy the thing.”  We’ve always worked on the principle that if in doubt, “oh what the hell” is always the right decision.

So we bought one, and we’re well impressed with it even before we’ve used it.  Can’t say we were impressed with the packaging, but against all the odds it did actually get here undamaged.  Just.

Verily, this thing is the Harley Davidson of pressure canners/cookers.

Now, what Brit readers are wondering is why, when we’ve been successfully bottling fruit for years, do we now have need of a pressure canner?  Well,  the answer is the vegetables we grow.  Without a pressure canner, we simply can’t bottle vegetables safely.  Yes, we do have a freezer, but not one big enough to freeze what we want to grow for store.  And besides, with bottled (canned) veg as well as fruit, we’re independent of the mains electric supply.


That shot’s for the benefit of any UK readers who might wonder how many Kilner jars you can get in a 21.5 quart All American Pressure Canner.  That’s six of the 2lb “Dual Purpose” ones, and it looks like 12 of the 1lb ones will work too.

The instructions are comprehensive and typically American (and I don’t just mean all the references to quarts and bushels), although you are left wondering about “pole beans” and “string beans”.  At the moment it seems to us that pole beans are runner beans and string beans are French beans, but if anybody knows for sure, do please add a comment now and clarify it for us!

Finally, it’s just occurred to me that by cropping that top picture as tight as I have, I’ve cut Willie Nelson out and he hasn’t featured on this blog hitherto.  Willie’s the dog who lays on top of the beanbag which sits in that corner of the kitchen to the right and keeps the two kettles hot after they’ve boiled on that stove in the background so we have free hot water all day long during the winter.  He’s called Willie because Elsie made a long handle/lifter-upper thing for the beanbag in a somewhat ethnic-looking fabric, and when we let go of it having put a kettle under the bag, it tends to fall round the top of his head …

Have a good weekend, folks.

Need a spool pin for your vintage Singer?


vintage Singer spool pins

And with that deadly dull picture, so begins this, my 150th post here.  One thing’s for sure – when I started the very first post on July 14th 2011, I had no idea at all we’d end up with 794 page views on our busiest day so far, have 624 comments, 318 email followers, and visitors from all over the planet.  Literally.  Today’s so far have come from the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Ireland, Philippines, Sweden, Guatemala, Japan, Viet Nam, Greece, South Korea, Netherlands, Tunisia, India, Spain, Iceland and Pakistan.


With this being the 150th post, I hoped to write something terribly profound or incredibly interesting, maybe even both, but alas we’ve been somewhat overtaken by events here of late and I’ve been up past my ears in chores since before Christmas.  What with a major re-vamp of my office and the sorting-out of the Elnas cluttering it up, Elsie’s major shake-up of The Sewing Room, and all manner of other lesser things accomplished, I was quite looking forward to spending some time on the puter yesterday or today by way of a little light relief.  But then the weather changed.

It finally stopped raining.  The fog cleared.  The sky brightened.  Heck, the sun almost came out!  So yesterday we made a start on the two big stacks of round timber which we scrounged during the course of last year, and by the time the chickens were thinking of going to bed yesterday, we were halfway through it.  And we’d axed up what we cut.

Today it was even more like Spring.  13°C this afternoon, to be precise.  On January 3rd.!  We even had a solitary honey bee buzzing around, presumably in a state of confusion.  Jolly nice it was too to be chainsawing and stacking logs without our jackets on, but I’m getting really worried about the rhubarb.  If we don’t get a proper hard frost for a few weeks before much longer, it’s not going to have any proper flavour, which bodes ill indeed for my favourite jam (after damson).  But whatever, two days work and we’ve saved about £140 on this winter’s heating bill.  And been entertained by Boris the resident blackbird’s attempts to woo the very pretty young lady blackbird from over the fence at the back, who seems to be playing hard to get.

Ah yes.  Spool pins.

Whilst scratting about the other day, I found a couple of packs of brand new modern copy spool pins which are now surplus to requirements, so if you have need of one, whether threaded or tapered fit, you’ll now find them listed in Elsie’s Bargain Basement.

Finally for now, two cautions about spool pins and vintage Singers.  One is that the taper-fit type do indeed just tap into place with a judicious whack from a hammer, but if you’re not used to doing stuff like that and you’re fitting one in the bed position on a 201 (i.e. for the spool you wind your bobbin off), be sure to stand a magazine or a bit of card up against the column so that your hammer can’t possibly clout the paintwork on the way down.

And do make sure that you’re going to fit that nice shiny new spool pin in the right place.  If you’re not sure whether that hole’s for a spool pin or for oiling, check out your book of words.  If you don’t have a book of words, hit the interweb, look at lots of pictures of your particular model … and hope that they haven’t all got the spool pins in the wrong place!

Elsie’s Bargain Basement – check it out!




Well, it’s finally happened – I’ve just finished listing loads of new stuff for sale.  Not only that, but we’ve also reduced the price of some items which are beginning to outstay their welcome, which explains why what used to be the Bits ‘n’ Bobs page has now turned into Elsie’s Bargain Basement!

While I was sorting that lot out, I checked out a few other UK suppliers of vintage Singer stuff just to make sure that we’re not getting expensive, and was reassured to find that we’re in much the same territory as the other sites for most stuff.   However, I must admit to being somewhat surprised by the asking prices elsewhere for buttonholers and zigzaggers in particular, so if you might be in the market for either, do take a look at our latest offerings.

By way of a break from all the uploading to WordPress I was doing and the research into pressure canners that Elsie’s been doing, we sloped off to the allotment this afternoon to get some greens for our poor chickens, who will very shortly turn into ducks if it doesn’t stop raining, and found that the tide was up …


We’ve seen that path a bit wet before, but never quite like this!  Fortunately the spinach which constitutes Phyllis and Clarice’s winter greens is still above flood level under that glass on the left in this rather poor snap taken with my dumbphone.

And apparently it’s going to be raining off and on for the rest of this week …

Another vintage Singer brochure!


OK, this is the last of the brochures which Syd was kind enough to leave with me for scanning, and once again it’s impossible to date it accurately.  My money’s on sometime between 1935 and 1940, but whatever …


What a delight it is to imagine that anybody might really say, by way of everyday conversation, that something “is a real enjoyment”!  Be that as it may, that front cover illustration immediately reminded me of Mrs De Vries, the nosey old biddy who lived next door for much of my early childhood.   She it was whose first words upon being invited into the house for her weekly gossip would invariably be “I won’t take my coat off, I’m not stopping”, and who would still be wearing it (and her hat) an hour or more later after the usual two cups of tea and the slice of stale shop cake that Grandmother always provided for visitors.

She it was too who recklessly walked out of her front garden gate one fine summer morning long ago without checking whether four-year-old me was hurtling towards her downhill at great speed upon his tricycle.  I still blame her for my first broken arm, and have never really got over the fact that the scant sympathy I was getting from Grandmother immediately turned into a major bollocking when I explained how it was all Mrs De Vries’ fault.  But I digress.


I reckon it’s stretching it a bit to describe the D-shaped swing-out thingy on the inside of the left-hand door of a 51 Cabinet as a “commodious drawer”, but it’s certainly handy and we’re big fans of this cabinet here.  The veneer on the front of some of them is really lovely, the treadle mechanism works a treat, it’s a doddle to raise and lower the head, and it’s easy to fit castors to one so you can move it about the place, should you wish.


I’m still not sure when they changed over from cast iron to wooden sides on the domestic tables, but in this brochure we see the cabinet table described as a “new stand with wooden sides”.  And it’s never occurred to me before, but  I wonder why Elsie’s is the only 201 we’ve ever seen in a Cabinet Table.  And why have we never seen a 15 in a 51?


Apparently “Singer Machines on this type of cabinet work form a prominent feature in thousands of homes”.  So I wonder why they’re decidedly uncommon in England now.  Neither of us is certain that we’ve ever seen one!


I’ve never seen a fireplace that close to a wall either, but never mind.  This No.40 Table’s a bit of a rare bird nowadays too, which may well be down to its design being something of an acquired taste to 21st century housewives ( if it’s still permissible to use the term).


And here we have the 201K2 and 201K3 Portable Electrics.  Portable in the sense that it’s not built into in a cabinet maybe, but it might surprise folks used to modern machines to learn that the 201K3 Portable in its bentwood case on the floor behind me now weighs in at 19.1Kg.  That’s why one of the very first things you learn with a 201 portable is to move the thing about as little as possible!

Incidentally, the difference between a 201K2 and a 201K3 is that the former has the direct-drive (so-called “potted”) motor while the latter has the usual bolt-on motor with the pulley and the belt.  And for what it’s worth, I do appreciate just how wonderful the all-gear drive is, but I wouldn’t buy a K2 on the grounds that if the motor packs up, you have a problem.  Replacement motors of the usual bolt-on type for a K3 are all over the place whether used, reconditioned or new equivalent, but good 240 volt replacement “potted” motors are like the proverbial.


“This, the lightest of the Lock-Stitch Hand Machines …” still weighs 14.5Kg in its natty fake snake/crocodile skin suitcase, but of course Singer didn’t tell you that in the brochure!  Interesting that at this period the portables were available in your choice of suitcase-type or bentwood case.


Oh dear, that mirror over the fireplace is way off-centre!  But who cares when by simply fitting a Singer Motor to the machine, one can do “more and better work without fatigue”?  And the friendly chap from the local Singer shop will be delighted to pop round and demonstrate at your convenience too.  I’m sure he won’t say anything about the mirror.


And here’s another rare bird in the UK – the one-drawer drop-leaf table with the bentwood cover and the bigger-diameter treadle wheel for faster sewing.  Again, this is one we’ve never actually encountered in the wild.

scan051And finally, the usual page explaining why you should not be discouraged by the trimming and finishing required to finish your new frock, when you can buy a box of tricks like this and instead “be thrilled with the dainty sewing you can do” with their help.  Quite.

Now, we may not know when this brochure was picked up, but we do know from where …


Yep, from the local Singer shop at 60 High Street, Tunbridge Wells, which just happens to be less than 10 miles away from where I’m sitting.   60 High Street is the right-hand half of what is now a double-fronted furniture shop …

60 High Street

We’re also familiar with The Singer Building in City Road, London, as illustrated on that page above.  And even though most of it’s now a Travelodge (of all things!) it still looks much  the same as when it was built …


If you’re ever in that neck of the woods, it’s on City Road almost opposite the Honorable Artillery Company’s barracks, and you can find it on Google Maps by using the UK postcode EC1Y 1AG.


It looks like the Singer Building did well to survive the last unpleasantness intact – it’s smack bang in the middle of the blue circle I’ve drawn on this map of a small part of London town, and according to a rather remarkable new website called Bomb Sight, those red dots are the bombs which were recorded as having been dropped on that area during the London Blitz of 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941.

And that’s it for this week, folks, except to send greetings from Elsie and me to anyone else who will be celebrating Yule later today.

Have a good weekend!

Why is WordPress so slow nowadays?


Does anybody know?  Is anybody else vexed by this slowness?  For the last month or two it’s just seemed to be getting slower and slower, irrespective of time of day, time of high tide or conjunction of the planets, until now it takes for ever and a day to write a post and upload the pictures.

I don’t think it’s anything at this end, because the only sites I’ve noticed the lethargy on are WordPress and, and unusually, Googling the problem hasn’t shed any light on it so far, which is a real PITA because I’ve got a long-winded post to do with lots of pictures.

Is there anybody out there’s up to speed with this sort of stuff and might be able to solve the mystery?  I guess it would help to know that I’m on BT Broadband in the UK, with a virus- and malware-free puter running Windows 7 and Firefox current version.

Whatever, have a good weekend, folks.  Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible …


A vintage Singer 201K leaflet



This is another of Syd’s leaflets which he kindly let me scan a week or two ago, and it’s another one which we hadn’t seen before.  I’ve no idea of its exact date, but a pound to a penny says it’s the second half of the 1930’s.

201_bAt top right of the centre pages we see the stitch length regulating lever in its vertical slot, and to its left the thumbscrew which invariably baffles folk who are new to the 201 and haven’t read the book of words.  The text below that picture explains the mystery …

Perfect stitches of a desired length are made either forward or backward, by movement of the lever “B”.  The figures alongside the slot indicate the number of stitches per inch that the machine will make.  When the top of the lever is moved level with any one of the  figures shown, and the screw “A” is raised an tightened, the machine makes the length of stitch wished for in a forward.  By moving the lever up, as far as it will go, the same size stitch is made backward.

Or, translated for the benefit of readers not used to Singer’s idiosyncratic way of explaining things …

Lever “B” sets the stitch length.  As shown it’s set for the longest stitch, and for normal forward stitching.  As you move the lever upwards in the slot, the stitch length gets shorter and shorter until the lever’s level with that line over the numbers.  At that point, the stitch length is zero, so the work doesn’t get fed under the presser foot.  Keep moving the lever up and you’re in reverse, with the stitch length gradually getting longer.  When the lever’s at the top of the slot, the stitch length is the same as it was when the lever was at the bottom of the slot, but you’re sewing backwards.

The thumbscrew and that curved slot is the clever bit.  Let’s say we want to sew roughly 12 stitches per inch.  We move lever “B” upwards until the top of it’s level with the “12” marking, and off we go.  If we’re happy with that length of stitch, we can then slacken the thumbscrew “A”, move it up that curved slot as far as it’ll go, which won’t be very far, and then tighten it.

Having done that, if we then move lever “B” upwards, we find that it won’t go all the way up to the top of the slot.  It now stops at “12”.  That’s because by moving the thumbscrew like we did, we’ve set the stitch length the same in both forward and reverse.

And that’s all there is to it – the thumbscrew is the means whereby you can set it so that when you want to back-tack or whatever, you just pull lever “B” up as far as it’ll go, and continue sewing with the same length stitch but in reverse!


Top picture on the back page explains feed dog drop, but it’s the wording immediately below the bottom picture that I think is lovely and so very much of its time …

View of the Machine head illustrating its particularly chaste ornamentation

Next week we’ll probably be looking at the third and final one of Syd’s brochures, plus what may or may not be some fascinating facts about the Singer building in London town and what used to be the Singer shop in downtown Tunbridge Wells, whence came this very leaflet we’ve just been looking at.