Black is Back

As some of you know from a past post, I love these old machines.  Meet my newest love, Singer 15-91:

Singer 15-91

Stella is my newest Singer and she’s a classic.  I bought her last month after I had eye-opening conversation with my dental hygienist, Ginger.  (Hi Ginger!)

Ginger is wonderful.  She’s awesome with the kids, gentle on my gums, but best of all, I swear she knows it all.  The first time I walked in, she eyed my bag and mentioned her love of fabrics.  Well, that got me started and soon we were exchanging blog sites.

At my cleaning in January, Ginger asked how things were going and I vented.  I had recently bought a used Bernina 1630, but I kept having a hog-load of trouble with it.  I had just taken it in for service and the repairs cost almost as much as I paid for the machine.  (Loooong story and one I don’t feel like boring you with.)  I felt depressed because sewing seemed to cost more money than I could afford.

Ginger asked why I bought another machine.  She asked what features I used and what was important to me.  She helped me figure it out.  It was all rather simple.

All I wanted was a machine to sew a beautiful straight stitch and to do it through anything I threw at it.  I wasn’t asking for alot, but it seemed like my last machine purchases, Janome and Bernina, were just not cutting it.  It’s all me.  I am very hard on machines.  I don’t have patience.  I push, pull, yank and shove fabric through.  I go from one layer to 15 and expect the machine not to flinch.  I want the stitches to look the same on the right side as well as the wrong side.  I don’t want jagged, skipped or crooked stitches.

Now that I have a couple years sewing under me, I no longer need the speed control, needle up-down, and auto-backstitch.  Yes, these features are wonderful to have, but for me they are no longer necessary.  Ginger convinced me to get back to the basics.  She told me to find a classic machine.  Find one from built between 1930-1960.  Find a Singer.

Original Cabinet

It took me less than two weeks.  And I gotta say, Ginger was right.  I found this classic beauty for $50 which included everything.  Stella is in her original cabinet and has just about all her original feet.  She was used very little and is in wonderful condition.

Singer 15-91

This is now my #1 machine.  The only time I use a different machine is if I need a zig-zag or free arm which is really less often than you think.  Between my serger and this Singer, I rarely use any other machine.

Singer 15-91

My number one feature with Stella is her quiet hum.  It’s quieter than any other machine by far.  She hums when she’s winding a bobbin, sewing through layers of canvas or sewing at breakneck speed.  Yes, she’s fast.  You can drop her feed dogs and whip out some easy free motion quilting.  Her bobbins hold a ton and she has a large harp (the space under the sewing arm) for easy quilt maneuvering.  There were tons of these made and the parts are easy to find.  Best of all, they’re cheap!

Simple Threading

I serviced Stella myself when I brought her home.  Since she was recently serviced by the previous owner, all she needed was oil.  All her parts were easy to reach.  There weren’t any computer boards to worry about frying or little compartments to figure out how to open.  You can see all her parts!  She’s all metal with gears and a cute little “pot” motor hanging off her backside.


With the help of Jenny’s excellent site and a few other Google searches, I learned all about 15-91’s in no time.  I’ve seen more and more of these on Craig’s List and would love to buy and love each and every one, but Chris would probably have a major melt-down.  (This weekend I found a mint green beauty for $75 and it was in her original portable base.  Oh, Lord I wanted to buy her…)

Okay, that’s about it.  I have much more to say about these old machines, but since many of you probably stopped reading already, I’ll better stop as well.  I just wanted y’all to know that there is a machine out there that doesn’t cost thousands, that you can service yourself (with a little time & research), and that sews beautifully.  There’s one out there waiting for you so don’t be scared to pick one up.  These classics have been around forever and I suspect they’ll be around for many more.


17 responses to this post.

  1. I first thought you broke into my Grandma’s house and took pictures of her machine. She has been sewing clothes for herself, children, grand and great grandchildren since receiving her Singer as a wedding gift 64 years ago. Wow, no wonder she never wanted to replace it!


  2. What a pretty, pretty addition.


  3. Posted by eatfruit on February 24, 2009 at 3:48 am

    I have a 1950’s Domestic. Her name is Grunhilda.If I could buy 3 more of her, I would. She is a beast, and I love her. You really can’t beat those old machines for basic sewing! Enjoy your new girl!


  4. Oh I want one too! When we move back to the US I am going straight to Craigs list. I have 2 wonderful Berninas but sometimes I am afriad I am offending them with what I am demanding they do. I re-purpose Men’s uniforms and that fabric is think and sometimes a big fat pain to work with. I though an industrial model was my answer, but I am going to try a SInger first. If they are good enough for you and Gwen Marston, I can give them a try!

    Thanks so much for this post!



  5. It looks a lot like the one my sister has from my grandmother. My grandma sewed everything on it, including her poly knit leisure suits. She was an expert seamstress. She could have bought another machine, but didn’t want to.


  6. Posted by Beth on February 25, 2009 at 6:59 am

    My dream machine… My mom has one she’s loved forever. I’m with you on the whole issue after having tons of frustration with new machines that just don’t cut it. I haven’t found my Stella yet, but I’ll keep trying! She’s a beaut.


  7. She’s very pretty…but whats with the monkey sticker?


    • I know… I was wondering if anyone was going to ask about the monkey sticker. It’s to mark a 5/8 seam allowance. The original plate comes with no markings at all so I put the monkey sticker on my serger and Stella so I can tell where to sew. I’ve seen that you can replace it with one that has all the seam allowances, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. Why not make it cute?


  8. Posted by Lori on February 25, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    You crack me up! Who would have known you would become such a sewer! I love it! Hey, happy belated birthday to Mr. Augie yesterday too – didn’t forget – just didn’t get around to sending wishes! Hope he is a happy 7 year old (yikes – they are all getting old!). 🙂


  9. Posted by paperseed on February 25, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Wow, that is one gorgeous sculpture of a machine!


  10. Posted by Cindy df on March 6, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Hi Irene – I just want to let you know that the old singer machines are AWESOME!!
    I have 4. They are so easy to take care of & fix. I have to sneak them in the house or hide them in my car!! Nobody understands why I need so many machines!! I also have a newer computerized machine for the fancy stitches – but it doesn’t compare to the 50-60 year old singers!! Enjoy!


  11. […] made using the same measurements and directions in my tutorial.  These were also 100% made by my new baby who made beautiful stitches even with the thick nylon […]


  12. […] from Mushroom Villagers (she’s also our forum hostess!) has an older machine she loves. Stella is a Singer and after reading all about her we asked Irene to give us a little more information about […]


  13. YES. It looks just like mine– and I adore it. I got mine for $40 on Craigslist, use it everyday, and couldn’t be happier! I answered Sew Mama Sew’s sewing machine meme on my blog.


  14. I have the same machine with the same cabinet! My sister just gave it to me, she bought it from a thrift store, it came with a stool that opened, that was filled with accessories. I just googled it because I’m going to clean and oil it tonight! Happy sewing!


  15. What a pleasure to read about another person calling their Singer by name. I always assumed it was some genetic glitch of my own. I inherited not one, but three Featherweights from my mother-in-law. She never used them that I know of. She just knew they should be hers. I never knew why until I plugged mine in. My Bernina hides in the closet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: