Jan 07

To The Moon!!

On a lark, I got a vintage sewing machine. I showed her picture to David, and he decided we needed to have her. I drove down to Tacoma and picked her up from a lovely woman whose hobby is restoring vintage machines. She fixes them up and then is done with them, so she sells them to have $$ and space to buy the next one. I got a perfectly cleaned and tuned machine for a song. Machine, table, and stool were $100. There were also a bunch of attachments that came with, and I’ve only explored a few of those. 


She’s a Singer 500, manufactured in 1961. Her name is Ada, after Ada Lovelace.

And now she has friends. I need to give them their own photo shoots, but they are not yet so beautiful. Or, rather, you have to look beneath the grime to see their beauty, so they will have “before” and “after” shots. They are a 1909 Singer 66 Lotus (web pic from Frugal Stitches):

Lotus 1908 

 And a Singer 503A, little sister of the 500 (web pic from linked site):

S503 3

The Lotus is named “Rita” after Rita_Levi-Montalcini. The 503A will have a name starting with “B” of a female scientist, tbd.

One of the things that’s been holding the “Hack Your Clothes” project back is the lack of tools and space for teaching sewing classes. I am going to fix that. I don’t know where the space will be; perhaps in the new house we are hoping to buy soon, or perhaps in a maker space or community center, or who knows? I may pursue a grant to set one up.

To that end I have decided to acquire a “flock” of vintage singers that can share parts and attachments with the 500, so I have student machines. I’ve given myself a budget of $50 for a working machine and “less” for a non-functional one. I hope to have 8-10 machines in the next couple months.

I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on cheap plastic student machines; they start in the $200 range and they are cantankerous and prone to breaking. These vintage machines are from the height of Singer’s quality curve. They benefit from 100 years of progressive improvements, and are the last generation before the decline into planned obsolescence began. They are inexpensive and plentiful, easy to service with great documentation, and there’s a huge community of enthusiasts to support me as I learn to maintain them. 

I welcome any input and support on how or where to set-up a textile lab for Hack Your Clothes. I will put the majority of my fiber tools there, and have it available for community use as many hours as I can arrange to have at least one responsible person available to support users. I want to provide the space for other fiber artists who would like to teach classes, and for community members working on projects. It should be well lighted, convenient to transit, and convenient for *me*. I currently live in West Seattle, and will be staying in the Seattle city limits, most likely south of the city center.

I love the Metrix model of an open space with knowledgeable staff and quality tools available to anyone for a modest hourly fee or a comfortable monthly membership. I also know I’m not inclined to manage the business side of such a space, so I will need to partner with an existing organization or some other folks to make this happen.

Putting it out there. Let me know if you have ideas and resources that would align with my vision. I have to think this is possible in Seattle.


  1. Mindy Weidner

    This sounds like an absolutely awesome idea! I’m a huge fan of the older sewing machines out there – they’re easier to fix and they seem to last forever when compared with the new models.

    As far as locations – have you looked into Jigsaw Renaissance? They’re a non-profit makerspace run by volunteers and are located in the Inscape building across the street from Uwajimaya in the International District. The location is right by a public transit hub (King St. Station) and sounds like it might work for you. And from what I know of Jigsaw I think they’d be interested in providing space/storage/etc if it brings more folks to the space. They’re always actively looking for more class ideas – http://www.jigsawrenaissance.org/

    I suspect you could probably pull quite a few students from the surrounding area as well. I live above Uwajimaya and consequently do a lot of shopping in the area – every time people find out I sew I’m always being asked how much I charge for easy little projects – and they’re usually folks who’d like to do their own sewing projects, but they lack the equipment and know-how. It’d be great if I could point them to someplace where they could learn the basics for a reasonable price.

    Since I’m so close to Jigsaw I wouldn’t mind looking into the possibility if you’re interested? Or if you need any other help drop me a line. 🙂


  2. Jennifer Leigh

    I am familiar with Jigsaw, and haven’t really felt at home in the vibe there the times I’ve visited. On the other hand, they have space, or at least did the last time I was there, and are in a great location. It bears some thought. I may drop by and see what they’re up to- it’s been a couple years now since my last visit.

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