Thursday, June 16, 2016

Singer Sewing Machines by Linda Hubalek

We think of pioneer women hand sewing all their clothing and bedding, but in 1851 Isaac Merritt Singer patented a sewing machine practical for home use. This changed everyone's sewing habits, and the time it took to make items. Not everyone could afford the first machines, but over time the price went down so more families could add one to their home.

The Singer company sold around 800 machines in 1853, but by 1876, they had sold over two million. I wonder how many machines were heading west in covered wagons to Kansas and beyond in the 1860-1870's. 
It made me think of the sewing machines I’ve used in the past, and those that my ancestors used. As a youngster, I spent many hours sewing scrapes on my paternal grandmother's sewing machine, which looked like the illustration above.

I learned how to sew clothing on a 1940's model black Singer sewing machine. When my parents were first married, Dad brought a sick newborn calf into their farmhouse and told Mom if it lived, Mom could have the money from its eventual sale to buy whatever she wanted. She nursed the calf back to health and bought a sewing machine.

A few decades later Mom upgraded to a Singer Model 337. It was fun to do all kinds of “fancy” stitching on pillowcases and tea towels. We made almost all of our clothes on this machine through my school years.

Currently I use a Singer Graduate Model 714 I bought when our high school sold their sewing machines to buy new ones for the Home Ec. classroom. I googled it on the internet and it popped up as a “Vintage Sewing Machine” on Ebay—reminding me it was almost forty years ago when I bought it. Even though it is now considered old—it still works fine—so I’m happy with it.

I have my maternal great grandmother's sewing machine and I can imagine all the clothing she made for her eight children. Unfortunately, it's missing a few pieces so I can't use it, but I display it for the memories it provides.

Thanks for stopping by to enjoy today's Sweethearts of the West Blog.

Linda Hubalek


  1. Love sewing machine history. Singer was also the first company to offer installment credit so women could pay out their machines.It was also common for women in a community to share a machine.

    I taught Home Economics for thirty years so have had loads of experience with different models of Singers. When I had a chance to buy machines for a school, I opted for the Bernna school model. I'm glad you had good luck with your school model Singer.

  2. Hi Linda, Thanks for stopping in to read and comment on my post. Can you imagine how exciting it was for a woman to get a sewing machine for the first time. I'd have been over the moon with happiness.
    My sewing machine is old and heavy but still works fine!

  3. Thanks for this post, Linda. There's a family story that when my father was a boy his family's farmhouse burned to the ground. They lost everything -- clothing, photos, furniture. But somehow they managed to save his mother's sewing machine. She had 9 children, so having that sewing machine was a blessing :-)

    Nancy C

  4. Oh, how I wish I still had that treadle Singer sewing machine we had when I was growing up. Although, my mom did most of her sewing on the first electric machines. I begged her to teach me since she was such a good seamstress...but she was too busy with the rest of my siblings, so I made up my mind to learn on my own, and did. I love sewing, and once created my own teenage fashion outfits...I used to work in a fabric store too, and made all sorts of outfits, and stuffed animals.
    In fact, my grandmother ended up with a sewing machine collection during her senior years. It's in the genes...smiles.
    Thanks for the memories!

  5. This is awesome, Linda. I have been sewing since I was a child and my aunt had the pedal machine. I loved working on it making doll clothes. My mother made all my clothes - when I got married and wanted to buy a couple of garments the clerk almost fainted when I told her I'd never bought a dress and had no idea my size. :)

    Now I make quilts and give them away in memory of our daughter. I find it so peaceful to create and so fulfilling to give them away as gifts. Great post.

  6. Ohmagosh, this brings back memories of my maternal grandmother's pedal Singer sewing machine and my mom's Singer that looked just like it, but had an electric motor. They could do anything with those machines. Mom made all my sister's and my clothes on that machine. She even did some seamstress work on it to make extra money.
    When I married in 1970, my grandmother gave me a portable Singer. I still have it and I still use it.
    Loved your post, Linda. It brought back some very pleasant and happy memories of my mother and grandmother sewing together with their Singer sewing machines.

  7. Thanks for the notes and memories, ladies. Sewing machines have made clothing, blankets, and love for generations.

  8. Linda--sorry I didn't get here earlier..but I do love old sewing machines. The second picture? My Granny had one exactly like that. My little sister and I played on the treadle when we could get by with it. And I remember hanging on to the side while my Granny sewed a little dress for my doll. I adored my Granny...and I wonder what happened to that Singer. The year would have been around 1944.
    Thanks for the memories, Linda.


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