One hour versus fourteen…

That’s how much time was saved with the invention of the sewing machine – folks could sew in one hour what used to take them over fourteen hours to do by hand.

This is a vintage Coronado sewing machine from the 1950s.  It was made in Japan and is related to Brother sewing machines.

Today – June 13th – is National Sewing Machine Day!

Can you imagine life without yours?  Even the devoted “I love to piece, appliqué and quilt by hand” folks have at least one sewing machine.

Some interesting sewing machine facts:

  • The first patent for a sewing machine was granted to Thomas Saint in England in 1790.
  • The first sewing machine that used a needle with an eye in the point was invented in 1807 by William and Edward Chapman.
  • In France, Bartheleémy Thimmonier’s patented a machine in 1830 that literally caused a riot. A French tailor, Thimmonier developed a machine that stitched fabric together by chain stitching with a curved needle. His factory produced uniforms for the French Army and had 80 machines at work by 1841. A mob of tailors displaced by the factory rioted, destroyed the machines, and nearly killed Thimmonier.
  • In 1834, Walter Hunt built the first machine that used an eye-pointed needle and created a locked stitch with a second thread from underneath.  His invention was never patented.
  • English inventor John Fisher combined the various inventions and built the first modern sewing machine in 1844 but due to a botched filing with the Patent Office, he doesn’t get credit for the invention.
  • Elias Howe gets credit for inventing the first American sewing machine in 1845 – his machine used a needle threaded at the point, a shuttle to form a lock stitch and an automatic feed.
  • Issac Merritt Singer?  His machine was patented in 1851 and the design featured an overhanging arm that positioned the needle over a flat table so the cloth could be worked under the bar in any direction.  It is that design that we use today.

By 1863, the Singer Manufacturing Company was selling 20,000 sewing machines a year for home use.  The machines stitched 250 stitches a minute… and not with electricity.  The first electric machines weren’t invented until 1899.

This Singer hand-crank is very old… and I’m sure most of the Moda fabric designers would love to have one just like it, even if it was just to look pretty in their sewing room.

As for what they actually sew with…

  • Debbie Maddy sews on a Bernina 1230 that is about 25 years old – she got it as a birthday present when she was 2.  (Debbie’s birthday was yesterday, June 12!  Happy Birthday Debbie!)
  • Amy Ellis does most of her sewing on a Baby Lock Destiny II, though she owns six machines including a longarm.
  • Camille Roskelley has Berninas and a Featherweight or two, but her main sewing squeeze these days is a Juki.
  • Lisa Bongean of Primitive Gatherings has Jukis and Berninas – but she wouldn’t confirm that she still has the Bernina Nick bought her when he was trying to convince her to marry him.
  • Janet Clare has two Pfaffs and two Singers.
  • Corey Yoder makes her beautiful quilts on a Juki and a Bernina.
  • Natalia Bonner does all of her sewing on a Bernina 4500QE.  She does all of her amazing machine quilting on a Gammill longarm.  The Janome Hello Kitty machine?  That’s for fun.
  • Laurie Simpson has two Featherweights that she cannot give up even the motors are slowing down but she sews on a Juki TL2010Q and she loves it.  She describes it as a Featherweight on steroids – no bells or whistles, just super-reliable and very fast.
  • Betsy Chutchian – a Pfaff Classic Style Quilt at home and a Janome Platinum for teaching.  She also has a Singer treadle machine and a Featherweight from the 1940s.
  • Jane Davidson of Franny & Jane – a Bernina 710 and a smaller Bernina 215 to take to classes.
  • Pat Sloan loves her Baby Lock Destiny II and that’s all she’d own up to…
  • Barbara Groves‘ every day machine is a Pfaff Varimatic 6091, but she also owns a Juki, a Janome and 2 Singers.
  • Crystal Manning recently upgraded to a Janome Memory Craft 8200 QCP and gave her “old machine” to her sister – it was a Brother CS6000i she bought two years ago as a beginning sewist.
  • Chelsi Stratton sews on a Janome that her Mom – Sherri McConnell – bought for her.  (Though she’s hoping to add a new machine soon.)
  • Sherri McConnell loves her Janome Memory Craft 6600P.
  • Shannon Gillman Orr – a Janome MC8200 QCP is her go-to machine but she also has a 1950 Singer in Baby Blue and a Janome serger.
  • Lynne Hagmeier of Kansas Troubles – four Berninas.  Her “newest” machine is over ten years old so she says an upgrade is in her future.
  • Kathy Schmitz sews on a Bernina that she describes as “a petite thing… but a workhorse.”
  • Anne Sutton of Bunny Hill Designs owns two Bernina 440s because she wants to make sure she’ll always have one, and a Pfaff 2140 that she loves.
  • Joanna Figueroa of Fig Tree & Co. – a classic Bernina 1230 that she will never give up or trade in.  She also has a Janome GemGold for traveling and teaching, and a little Featherweight that she uses mostly for photography.
  • Jen Kingwell does own sewing machines!  She has two Berninas but she might be getting a third as she’s not in love with the second one… stay tuned.
  • Kristyne Czepuryk sews on a 13-year old Pfaff Quilt Expression – and suddenly she was Wonder Woman, able to make things with ease with her workhorse machine!

This is a Morse Fotomatic circa 1967.

While the images of vintage machines were initially found on Google and Pinterest, a little sleuthing led me to the origin of the Coronado and Morse machines, a terrific blog-website devoted to vintage machines that sew – MI Vintage Sewing Machines.

I read somewhere that you should give your sewing machine a name so she will know you love her.  I love my sewing machines but alas, they do not have names.  Is that wrong?  Have you named your sewing machine?

One last thing to share on National Sewing Machine Day… while in a thrift shop years ago, a stack of cards with drawings of birds caught my attention.  My Aunt Doris was a serious “birder” so I thought they’d be something fun to share with her.  I was surprised to see that they were trading cards from the Singer Sewing Machine company dating to the 1920s.

At $1.00 each, I bought them all.

The back of the trading cards includes advertising and everything you might want to know about the Yellow-breasted Chat.

Happy Tuesday – and Happy National Sewing Machine Day!

To celebrate the occasion, I hope you get to spend some quality time with your machine.

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38 thoughts on “One hour versus fourteen…

  1. love the article. I have 2 Featherweights that were my Mom’s – they are my go-to machines. I have a “bottom-of-the-line” Janome for special stitches, which I use occasionally.

  2. Happy National Sewing Machine Day to you too! Enjoyed your article. I love my Featherweights. I have a Janome and a Bernina too, but my every day machine is the Featherweight. I got mine at estate sales and named them after the owners … Mrs. Kessler and Mrs. Nagel. Thank you Carrie for all you do.

  3. I have the Singer picture, from the 1800’s, but it was electrified in the mid to late 1920s. My uncle gave it to my grandma as a wedding present around 1927

  4. What?!? You haven’t named your machine(s)? My Featherweight is Flossie, my Pfaff is Fiona, and my HQSS is Patience. Thanks for a great article.

  5. I have a few ! ! ! My Bernina 550 QE ‘Erni’ is my go to machine. A Janome, just a little guy which I bought while I was trying to decide which machine would replace the Elna I got 40+ years ago and is slowing down from use. Then there is my mother’s singer in a table, circa 1960 that I learnt to sew on – I don’t remember the model. A cute little Featherweight ‘Victoria’ that I got for my bday a couple of years ago. And most recently I was given a Singer similar to the hand crank in the photo, but this one has a motor and uses a shuttle type bobbin, and it works. I’m looking at getting a Juki, or a bigger Bernina for FMQ, perhaps even a sit down mid-arm. One can dream!

  6. My first sewing machine was and still is my Bernina 930 that I bought brand new in 1987. Still sews fantastic and would never sell. I also have 2 Featherweights that I bought on eBay about 15 years ago that also run fantastic….

  7. I sew on a Bernina 1530 but I have not named her either! But she knows I love her to pieces! I bought her brand new back in 1992.

  8. Fun article. I have a Bernina 1090 purchased brand new in 1994.this has been my go to machine ever since and I love it. I also have a Featherweight made in 1946 and just purchased a Juki in December…..thank you Lisa Bongean!

  9. My favorite sewing machine story is that in early Seattle you had to register your trade, but also sewing machines had to be registered. There were thousands of “seamstresses” but very few “sewing machines”. I am sure these girls were sewing more wild oats than anything with needle and thread! I have two Bernina machines, a Bernina serger and a Janome Gold Gem for classes.

  10. I have the portable all-metal Singer my grandmother gave me as a high school graduation present, a 1955 Featherweight, and the Janome 25th AQS anniversary model — great for classes, as is the Featherweight. But I’ve done more hand piecing of late. Go figure. None of them have names, but all of our cars have been named…

  11. I have a Bernina (Princess Bernina), 2 Pfaffs (Pfaff 1 & Pfaff 2), 1 Janome and 1 Singer

  12. Great post! As it happens I have a friend visiting me at the cottage for a mini retreat so we are happily sewing away. I have an antique Estonia, a wonderful Singer treadle that works like a charm, an Elna Grasshopper from the 1940’s an Elna Supermatic vintage 50’s but my go to machines are a Janame Horizon 7700 and her name is Ruby, and my mid size Janome is a QC 6260 and she answers to the name of Jane. She is not as glamorous as Ruby but she sure is dependable!

  13. Love those Singer advertising cards! Shaking my head that you haven’t named your machines. How do you speak to them in a friendly colleagueal way without recognizing how important they are to you? SMH. I work with Jack Flash, a Juki TL2010q who is better than a boyfriend, and Hazel, my Juki HZL DX5. Emma, my older HV Emma travels with me.

  14. What a fun article! I have a Viking Sapphire 965Q, a small Janome for classes, and the Janome Hello Kitty was a Christmas gift for my granddaughter. I would love to find a Featherweight that was made the year I was born!

  15. Thanks for this post I really loved to read it! My sewing machine is a 32 yo Pfaff 1027 and her name is Camille Krystine McNelson.

  16. Happy National Sewing Machine Day! I sew with my Janome Memory Craft 6600P and occasionally with my Singer Featherweight. I named my little singer machine Betsy since she was made in Elisabethtown in 1952. Happy sewing!

    1. How could I forget the Gammill longarm – her name is Ruby since she has a beautiful Ruby Red paint job!

  17. I have owned at various times more than 30 machines. Still in my house now, are two Sears portables which were the Lotus knock-offs in the 70’s; An FW that was my Grandmother’s and her sister’s; Bernina 350 patchwork edition; Juki straight stitch Tl-2010Q; a Pfaff Expression 3.5 I sew on most of the time; Singer 301 which is my travel machine; and an Innova longarm! I need to sell the Bernina, the Sears machines and maybe the Juki. Not using them. Thanks for the history!

  18. By the way, I had a Morse which is pictured which was my first machine my mother got me second hand. If I ever find one again, I’ll buy it. I love the push button stuff….

  19. What an awesome post! I could totally become a sewing machine hoarder. Can’t believe your machines are not named. My Pfaff quilt expression 4.0 Is Tessa, my mom’s old Kenmore Limited Edition is Mary named after her, my little Brother Se400 embroidery machine is Grace (She was a gift), and my little Singer server (was my mom’s and my husband affectionately called her Mu) is Muey the Tailor. The best name ever for a machine is the one my sister just purchased used from someone in Canada. We call her Sweet Nell because of Dudley Do-Right the Royal Canadian mountie and his girlfriend! Thank for this post. I think I may need to get a few more machines…dying to add a featherweight 221 and a treadle machine to my collection!.

    1. Oh, Jen! I can relate. Years ago I got so frustrated with my first sewing machine because it wouldn’t do a decent satin stitch for applique that I threw it across the room then marched out to the living room and told my husband I was getting a new machine. Smart man that he was (and is), he just nodded his head. I had a new machine by the following weekend.

  20. I have a Kenmore my husband bought me in 1989 and a Janome 10000 he bought me in 2002. I love them both. My Janome gets a good workout just about everyday. I make my own labels with the embroidery component.

  21. Great post!… This was a fun read!
    Although I have more sewing machines than I like to admit to owning… (why couldn’t I have loved and collected something “smaller”, or, more “mainstream”??!)… my all-time absolute favorite machine to sew on is my Singer 301, circa 1951!! (It’s often called the Featherweight’s big sister, but I actually like sewing on it much more than on my Featherweight…)
    Pat T.
    (sigh… thinking of finding good new homes for some beautiful, wonderful machines…!)

  22. Thanks for the article. My Morse Fotomatic is just like the one pictured — got it machine for Christmas 1967 when I was 17. Gift from Mom & Dad. Still sews like a champ, also have a Singer circa 1986, a Janome MC3300 and a Janome MC6600P. Guess I don’t NEED another one, yet!!

  23. Your beautiful Coronado isn’t just related to Brother machines, it was built by Brother. Coronado was the badge name Gambles Dept. stores used for their household products. Starting in the mid 1950s Brother built their sewing machines.

  24. Fun Post Carrie! I too am a Bernina owner – a 430 – my daughter has my original 810 which is 38 years old. 2 Featherweights, 1 301 Singer, and recently got a 1951 Singer in a cabinet with a stool. They were’not numbered in those years. I paid $75!! It stitches like no other!!

  25. I have the exact Singer with the top. My friend bought it for a few dollars at one of our quilt shows.
    When she died, we found it in her garage. Someone electrified it, but it needs a lot of work to make it go again. It is in great condition—the decals are perfect and beautiful. I also have an old
    Singer in its original oak cabinet. It doesn’t work either. Of course I also have a working Featherweight. I have my Mom’s old singer from the 50’s. The rest are Bernina’s.
    The Singers are probably too expensive to fix. They are beautiful.

  26. Hi – my two antique Singers from 1923 and 1925 are named Julia and Marie after my two great aunts – all are very special to me!

  27. I collect, restore and use antique and vintage sewing machines stitch quilts. My earliest sewing machine is a rare (fewer than 25 known to exist) Folsom from 1860s. My collection contains treadles, hand cranks and electric machines from 1870s to the 1970s. I have five or six vintage Berninas and a 730e form the early 2000s. My newest is a Brother with pin feed.
    I recently brought home a Bucket List machine: a rare Wheeler & Wilson bookcase cabinet treadle.
    When asked how many machines I have, I answer “More than ten.” (A lot more than ten!) When asked why collect sewing machines, I reply, “It keeps me out of the bars.”

  28. My father-in-law gave me a Kenmore Sewing Machine as a wedding gift in 1966 … I used it over 45 years, when I bought my Janome 6600P. LOVE both machines! I bought the Janome because of the wide throat because I make Quilts For Kids.

  29. Wonderful information, thanks for the post. I have a Janome New Home 8000 which my husband bought for me brand new, a number of years ago. I use it for clothing construction and decorative stitching. I have a Bernia 180 which is called Bernie, and is used for Blanket stitching and decorative stitches. I have 3 Featherweights, that is, two 221’s and a 222 which is a free arm featherweight my husband gave me for our 25th Anniversary. I use my featherweight for almost all of my quilt piecing and love, love, love it. I call it “Bird” because its lightweight and travels well. Lastly, I have a commercial embroidery machine, a Brother 416, 9 needle machine which is a work horse that still uses floppy disks. Out of all of my machines, I use my Featherweight and my Janome the most.

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