Deitrich, Kohler, and Winselmann… German Giants.

Vesta – “Sowitch”

In 1869 L.O. Deitrich (Vesta), Hermann Kohler, and Gustav Winselmann (Titan) started a new sewing machine company in Altenburg Germany, known a L.O.D. and they produced Vesta sewing machines, Kohler was primarily in charge of advertising and Kohler machines were primarily sold in the German home market. They had all worked for Muller prior to forming their own company.

The “Sowitch” was a badged Vesta machine made for the English market and bears the older Vesta logo on the pillar, in their day they were considered to be some of the finest machines ever made, with a smoothness of operation that is something one needs to experience first hand.

After some time Winselmann left the partnership to produce his own machines which were also beautifully designed and often extremely ornate like our TS high Arm… this machine was imported into London in 1902 by a G. Lobi and was given a 5 year guarantee.

Pfaff was another major company producing machines in Germany, established in 1885 by Georg Michael Pfaff, a German instrument maker and entrepreneur… they deserve an article of their own due to their massive success.

By 1910 they had produced a million machines and employed a thousand workers.

Deitrich and Kohler continued on after the departure of Winselmann and produced machines for their own domestic market and for export, some British machines like the Harris Model 9 was a badged Vesta machine.

Kohler Model 7
Vesta “Sowitch” VSlll

After World War 2 L.O.D. was absorbed by the communists into a larger cooperative while Winselmann’s factory did not survive the war and was never rebuilt, Pfaff also continued to do extremely well as they were in West Germany and not subjected to Russian rule.

Kilbowie… Birth Of A Sewing Machine.

Singer 28k – 1900

At the turn of the last century, the largest sewing machine factory in the world was Singer’s facility at Kilbowie Clydebank, which was completed in 1885 after a smaller factory in Glasgow (doing mostly assembly work from imported parts) was closed down.

It had a million square feet of space and employed 7000 workers, and even then they could not meet production demands and customers were put on wait lists. This was when they were producing 13,000 machines a week and still unable to meet demands. In 1905 they expanded their buildings to be 6 stories tall to provide more workspace.

By 1943 the factory would have produced thirty six million machines.

This old 28K was made in Kilbowie (that is what the K stands for) and in checking, this rather large run of machines totalled almost 100,000. The models Singer offered in 1900 were not as expansive as they were a few decades later and the 28K was an immensely popular model, accounting for a high percentage of Singer’s sales.

The 28K was the 3/4 sized version of the 27 and was most often offered in a wooden case with a handcrank, while the 27 was most often fitted to a treadle.

I made a new handle for the handcrank on the wood lathe as after 122 years and a good bit of use, it had failed, the machine turns still over as smooth as silk and makes a beautiful stitch.

Not rare, no museum piece by any measure but a solidly made precision tool that has lasted for generations.

Birth of A Sewing machine was filmed at the Kilbowie factory in 1934, it is a wonderful (silent) film.

On the bench… Singer 99k31

What isn’t there to like about the Singer 99K ?

The last of the series came with a more powerful motor (.8 amp) and an improved stitch length control, we usually add a new spool pin with a guide as this works really well with thread stands to maintain a correct thread path.

And we’re back…

1978 Honda CB750K…
The bike and the tent are almost the same age…

Our fall tour took us through Saskatchewan and we made a few stops to service sewing machines, spent time with friends, and perused quite a number of second hand shops and antique stores.

We didn’t find any worthwhile machines to bring / send home but the time on the open road was very enjoyable, even though the temperatures were pretty extreme for September.

Got home just in time to be here to welcome our new grandson into the world… he got to go home yesterday after spending 4 days at the hospital as mom needed some recovery time.

Meet River… my new sewing buddy.

Something old, something new…

Like most things we rarely buy anything new, my phone is a hand me down from my daughter and when she upgraded her computer to a new gaming oriented machine, we moved her old desktop into the shop.

Too slow for modern gaming and it’s demands, but about on par with my laptop and perfectly good for the workshop.

That wireless keyboard had to go… I prefer mechanical keys as they are so much easier on the hands and if I want a rainbow of keyboard colours I could do that too.

Still listening to the radio on my 60 year old Nordmene Electra am/fm radio though.

“Rose”

Rose purchased her Pfaff 130 in October of 1954, and according to the receipt she received a $40.00 trade in allowance on her White Rotary treadle so her bill was $335.00 plus a small financing charge.

Factoring for inflation, that was like spending $4000.00 in 2022 and over the years she sewed a lot, and took exemplary care of her beloved machine, keeping the sales receipt and the lifetime warranty.

The Pfaff 130 is considered to be one of the greatest machines of the 20th century, beiong a high speed rotary capable of 2500 stitches per minute, and this 130 is also fitted with the optional embroidery module, sometimes called a coffee grinder.

It was fitted to a model 100 cabinet, which was the entry level model but still very well made, the Cosmopolitan cabinet was the top of the line cabinet and would have brought the price of the package to well over $500.00.

Most amazing was how smoothly and quietly this machine is running after 10 years of not being used, we have yet to give it a complete service and after that she will run even better.

Due to our busy schedule we won’t be getting to that until September of 2022.

The Singer 401A

Singer 401A

Christmas of 1957 was when Singer introduced what has come to be one of the most desirable Singer machines of the 20th century, The 401A was a mechanical marvel built to an unbelievable standard and in 2020 dollars this machine sold for over $4000.00.

The introduction of the Singer 401A did not come without some hurdles, as Singer engineers incorporated some design elements that already belonged to Vigorelli and Bernina, and some lawsuits had to be settled. It was around this time that Singer was also discussing some distribution deals with Bernina which got them in a little more hot water with the Federal Trade commission.

Building on the gear driven rotary hook system of the 201 and the slant needle system and drive motor introduced by the 301, Singer produced a really incredible machine with a wide range of built in stitches, as well as having the ability to use accessory cams. This is the stitch chart for the 401A, and 403A which followed it, being a slightly lower cost machine that used cams for all it’s extra stitches.

The 4xx series expanded to include the 404A (straight stitch), and there were German made variants as well, with the model peaking with the 431G which was a convertible free arm (and is quite rare). The 5 series Singers used the same internals as the 4xx series but got a different body and some slightly changed external parts, we find that the 4 series are a much more robust machine.

My mom said that back in the 1950’s this was the sewing machine she wanted but could never afford, as she was never one to put anything on a payment plan, if she was still with us and was sewing you know I would give her one of these fabulous machines.

We have several in stock now that have been completed serviced and are ready to provide another 65 years of service or more… as they are just that well made.

The Singer 201 – Perfection

Singer 201-2 U.S.A.

When the Singer 201 debuted in 1935 it was, and remains as the finest straight stitch machine they ever produced, although one might argue that the 301 was better by virtue of it being lighter and truly portable.

Produced in the United States and England for almost three decades it came in 4 variations; treadle (201-1), hand crank (201-4), motorized (201-3), and with a potted motor (202-2) and aside from the drive mechanism, they were all built to an incredible standard. There was also the model 1200 which was a commercial variant a much rarer variant produced in Germany (201D) and in Australia from parts sourced from the U.K.

Hand lapped bevel gears drive this rotary machine, and while many gear driven machines use grease, the 201 has a brilliant oiling system for all the moving parts. It is a total loss system where new oil flushes the old and there are oil cups under the main drive components to catch any overflow. the only place a 201 gets grease is in the motor tubes or cups.

It was the most expensive machine Singer offered and the base machine cost a few dollars more than a Singer 221, and with a cabinet the price could easily double to close to $300.00, which is over $3000.00 in today’s money. While the prices of the 221 have soared, the 201 can still be found for a very reasonable price unless it is an original hand crank as those always fetch a higher price.

Singer 201 Centennial – treadle

When used in a treadle the Singer 201 is one of the smoothest and lightest running machines ever made, almost dead silent in operation.

Singer 201-4 1949 (England)

Our 201k4 hand crank was made in 1949 and runs as sooth as a buttered kitten on glass.

Singer201k Mk2

In the 1950’s Singer redesigned a great number of their classic machines, and the 201 was no exception, except they were cast in aluminium instead of iron which made them lighter. Most often found in two tone brown, there is a rarer black variant.

The model endured until 1961 and was discontinued due to extremely high production costs, and a move by Singer and everyone else to produce multi stitch machines.

Singer 201-3 1947

This 201-3 was manufactured in October of 1947 and is currently being serviced in our shop, although the external condition was excellent the hook assembly had surface rust so those parts had to be removed for cleaning and polishing. If there had been any pitting we would have replaced the parts as a compromised surface finish will negatively affect the stitch quality and performance of the machine.

If you have never experienced a 201 in person, this is an example of just how smoothly they run, and as this customers machine had a toothed replacement belt, it could have run even quieter with a v belt.

Still… astonishing machines.

Happy sewing.

Singer 115, treadled and hand cranked

Our Singer 115 is one of my favourite machines in our collection, and one of my favourite Singer machines of all time.

Although it looks like the more common model 15, the 115 is a rotary machine which makes it incredibly smooth running, fast, and like the rest, it makes a perfect stitch.

I picked up a 115 for parts and while that machine is still sitting on the work bench in a totally seized state, it did come with a smooth running original hand crank which I decided to add to my treadled 115. It can be disconnected when one is treadling and for low speed precision work a hand crank machine just can’t be beat, and it works so beautifully on the 115.

Singer Featherweight 221 – 1935

What hasn’t been written about the Singer Featherweight ?

This small aluminium wonder debuted in 1933 and at 11 pounds it was one of the lightest, fully functional sewing machines on the market, and over it’s production life, they were sold in the millions (2.5 million) so in most cases, one could never consider them to be rare.

Some variants are rare, like specially badged models, and the wrinkle / blackside and tan coloured models and those can fetch thousands of dollars when they come up for sale.

The early models like this 1935 are a wee bit different as they use a different bobbin tensioner and have a different faceplate, and if this example was 100% original it would have a different upper tension unit. Many were changed to a numbered dial over the years.

The handwheel is a bit thinner and lighter, and I have found the early Featherweights are by far, the smoothest running examples, probably due to new tooling being used and subsequent higher tolerances.

School bell tensioner

People have asked if we are going to add this to our permanent collection but we haven’t decided on that yet, have always said that if I was going to keep a 221 that it would be an early school bell version…