A brief history of The White Sewing Machine Company…
Pearl is always reminding everyone, that the handles and latches on vintage cases might have been fine when they were made 60 or more years ago but now one might want to add safety straps to provide extra security.
These are really easy to make and all you need is the strapping, a size 18 needle, and preferably, some Tex 70 bonded nylon which most domestic machines can handle.
First you make the two loops to wrap around the case and make them snug as they will stretch a wee bit. After that the handle is added and it’s length has to be such to allow you to slide the loops off the end, one at a time. There are no latches or clips of any kind on these straps.
Holes in socks are just a fact of life and once upon a time, people used to darn them to extend their life, or if you were lucky enough to have a delightful little free arm machine like this Bernina 125, you could darn them on the machine.
As they say… happy wife, happy life.
Back in 1906 the Boye company, maker of needles, shuttles, bobbins and all sorts of notions introduced their commodity case, which they provided to retailers to display their various wares.
This example probably dates to 1910 and was still wonderfully stocked with needles, a good number of shuttles, and a small number of extra bobbins for machines that, in many cases, have not been made for well over 100 years.
Each one of these tubes contains 3 needles and there are over 200 tubes in the bottom and top carousel.
The top is badly worn but originally had a transfer on top which listed makers and models, and all the retailer had to do was point the needle at the name and would then know what shuttle and needles a customer requires. I am in the process of having a transfer reproduced to restore the top, and to scale so that the reference marks line up.
Boye used their own numbering system and charts are available to cross reference these numbers to match specific makers, some of the needles in the case are quite rare, as many manufacturers used proprietary needles before things were standardized as they are today.
It will be quite a project to inspect all the contents… and make a list of needles.
Isaac Singer died in 1875, and did not see the massive success the company he founded, but the 12k was the machine that made him one of the wealthiest men on earth.
In it’s early days the 12k could cost a year’s wages, and when this example was made a skilled tradesman was making about .25 cents an hour, at 90.00 this was several month’s full pay so would have been bought on installments, and sometimes paid off over as much as a decade.
First sold in 1864, and when the United States was still at war with itself, it was a marvel of engineering that was able to sew everything from silk to heavier fabrics, and surely caused fits among Singer’s competition and made them run back to the drawing boards.
It was one of the first really great sewing machines that really established Singer.
The 12k was very successful and was made for 40 years and into the early 20th century, like many other Singer models it was also widely copied as soon as the patent protections ended in the 1880’s. Our 1902 Winselmann TS is an example of one of the countless copies the Germans made, and continued to make well into the 20th century.
Sewing with one of these machines is a wonderful experience as they turn so lightly and smoothly, and they do sew extremely well.
Sometimes machines come to you with stories…
Marie Louise was a French seamstress who worked for LaFleche Tailors, a company that was established here in 1906, and eventually closed after 101 years of business in 2007, because of a lack of skilled tailors, and competition from Asia.
The LaFleche brothers came here from Quebec to start farming but when that did not work out it was a good thing that they had brought their sewing machines with them.
They eventually became the clothier for anybody who was anybody, and their clients included Prince Charles and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. They also made all the uniforms for Greyhound drivers and did this until they closed up shop. Generations of Albertans went to LaFleche for their graduation suits, and one story I read was that of a local farmer who came to them every five years to get a new wedding and funeral suit.
This Singer 31k20 tailor’s machine was made in 1911 and I strongly suspect it was originally owned by, and used by the original LaFleche brothers and later came into the hands of Marie Louise, either when the shop closed 12 years ago, or during a period when they would have been upgrading to more modern machines.
I will always wonder if this machine made a suit for a prince, or a prime minister… at 108 years old she is in wonderful condition and sews beautifully, as one would expect.
This machine will stay in our permanent collection.
We had had a long standing love affair with Kenmore sewing machines, especially those models that were designed and sold in the early to mid 1970’s, and manufactured by Maruzen in Japan. I feel that this was the zenith of Sear’s production and although subsequent Kenmore machines are still very good, nobody will ever make a machine like this again, and if they did, it would cost many thousands of dollars to buy.
Charles Harrison was the chief designer for Sears and as he was dyslexic, he wanted to design machines that required very little need for reading instruction manuals, and were more intuitive to use.
We picked up a Kenmore 158.1941 the other day and it is presently in the getting our spa treatment, the 158 denotes that it was made by Maruzen and the model and variation follows.
The 1941 was an immensely successful model that was produced, and was placed just below the top models of the day, but offered nearly all the same features, and excellent performance. Consider that in 1975 this machine sold for around $250.00 and could compete against and even exceed the performance of Berninas, Pfaffs, and Elnas that cost three to four times as much.
The 1030 in our collection was one of Harrison’s most famous designs and believe an example sits in the Smithsonian as an example of brilliant mechanical design and American engineering.
One of my longest serving machines is my 158.1931 which is a convertible free arm model, identical to the 1941 mechanically save for the added feature of being able to use pattern cams. It is a flawless machine that, despite being over 40 years old, still performs like it was a new machine… and it was a well used machine when I bought it.
Released in Singer’s centennial year (1951), the 301 and 301A were one of the most revolutionary machines Singer ever produced, and they have developed quite the following among sewists of all kinds.
Dressmakers, quilters, and others appreciate the speed (1600 stitches a minute), perfect stitch, and power of this gear driven, rotary hook wonder… and it was the first machine to use Singer’s proprietary slant shank presser system, which brings your work forward for a better view.
It is also a remarkably lightweight machine at 16 pounds, and packs up to just under 23 pounds in it’s case with it’s pedal and accessories.
When we receive these machines in for sale, they do not last very long, and we usually have a waiting list… the rarest version is the black long bed, and they also came in a solid beige (standard and long bed versions). The LBOW only came in a standard bed version.
Contact us if you are looking for a 301 and we’ll put you on our waiting list.
Being a bit of a speed freak, and liking both power and speed I set about upgrading a Singer 306k yesterday with a .9 amp, 7000 rpm motor to replace the original .5 amp Singer unit.
The new motor is much quieter and has an electronic pedal which gives nice control, and the 306 is such an amazing machine, with a rotary hook it could probably sew even faster with nary a ripple on the water.
We carry the motor and pedal kit which fits most Singer models, price is $70.00 cdn and this will include a belt to match your machine, as the supplied belt is too short for some machines.