Good things come to those who wait…


It was a chilly evening when I drove down a little residential road in the lovely town of Maumee, Ohio, searching for a house number and learning that most did not have them illuminated or even painted on the curb at all.  It was hard to find the exact house.  Finally, thanks to a cell phone call, I found the place and the young man in front of his cherry Christmas lighted house.  I was ready.  I had spent the time searching online about this special sewing machine that I really wanted in my life.  I knew the serial numbers and age from a reader’s suggestion.  I had other knowledge from a sewing machine repair man on what to look for…  dirty bottom, build up of sewing dust crud, a smooth and powerful stroke of the motor.  I had exactly $100 in my pocket, which was the seller’s asking price but I had a twenty in one pocket and the rest in another, fully determined to dicker down the price if I saw fit.  I was expecting a machine in good shape, but neglected shape, since he had said his Grandma hadn’t done much sewing in her last years.  I was ready.



Shook hands with the young man, and his wife came out, each apologizing that the machine was out in the garage.  “I had been cleaning it and fixed up the cord and oiled it for you,”  the man added with a nice smile.  I could see already that I liked these people.  When you deal on Craigslist, you encounter so many different people.  There are the lingering sellers that really had to part with something, but are happy you want it… the crabby ones that just want cash and a quick goodbye.  There are slightly scary ones that misrepresent their products for sale and you just can’t wait to get out alive.  But these folks, they just seemed to be nice people and eager for a good sale.



He stepped aside and I saw her.  Gleaming, clean, beautiful, just sitting there, waiting for someone to take a seat and sew.  My goodness…  she was in such beautiful shape.  I checked the serial number at once, its located right up front on the machine, proud and ready for you to see.  I knew she was from around 1948 to 1955 from memorizing the chart.  1950 to be exact, I would learn later.  Everything on this machine was spotless.  Clean, not a scratch on it.  No wear marks from tape or scissors, the gleaming golden decals were all intact.  Apparently, Grandma was a very careful sewer.  There were a few scratches and such on the lovely little wooden case, but then, that was probably from 70 years of being in the living room, as the couple explained, and kids and grandkids bumping into it and spilling stuff on it.  The lady shyly remarked that a few were probably from her.    I smiled, I knew about that thing.  My mom’s old sewing machine cabinet was in our living room and my brother and I did a number on it through the years.



I couldn’t believe how clean and nice the underneath looked.  Totally without fiber junk or that machine crud that just forms on sewing machines.  It looked brand new.  I was a little worried that he had oiled it up and asked…  “Sewing machine oil, I hope?”  And quickly, yes, he produced the ORIGINAL can of Singer sewing machine oil!  Oh, good man!  I have heard horror stories of people using the wrong stuff, like lithium grease or just household oils and such, but he had the original stuff to lubricate this old gal.  Wonderful.



After my initial look over, and I was about 90% certain this machine was going home with me, he asked if I wanted to sew something and produced a little fold of some denim.  Yes, yes….  good…. something tough.  Not just a fold of cotton.  I was ready to do so, yet almost felt a little hesitant, like if it didn’t run right would all my dreams be dashed…. yet, sit I did.  And sew, I did.




She sewed so straight and true it was amazing.  And fast.  And not a single hesitation to 2 and then 4 layers of denim.  This was exactly what I was looking for.  A good gear driven sewing machine with some guts.  I want to be able to patch jeans and to make our feed bag tote sacks and to maybe even one day sew my yurt cover!  I wasn’t looking for some belt driven pansy of a machine… I had that at home!  My old Kenmore was solid, but still, she would baulk at the slightest little big of bulk.  A good cotton machine, quilting maybe.  But this lovely Singer 15-91 was meant for our homestead… it can apparently even sew leather if need be!!!

Oh, the sound of that machine.  True and solid like a little locomotive steam engine.  She ran without a singly clicky or clacky sound.  Smooth as silk.  Not a single thing wrong with her stitching song.  A few others I had come across just sounded weak and worn out.  This baby?  No way, just solid as the day off the factory floor.  I was beginning to think that Grandma was not a rabid sewer.  She was a seldome sewer, one that gave it a whirl now and then but probably didn’t do much other than the occasional hem or mend and perhaps Halloween or school play costumes for the children.  That sort of thing.    The top thread tension was a bit off.  She was loopy underneath and I fiddled with it a bit and it adjusted somewhat.  I asked when it was last used, or serviced and he said that Grandma hadn’t sewed for years and years that he remembered, and then she died a few years back.  Grandpa was just moving into assisted living and no one wanted or used the machine.  He guessed at least 10 years of being idle.



The fellow had also replaced the aging, cracked electrical cords and they were neat and tidy.  I was not surprised.  As I looked around his man cave of a garage, I could see a lovely carpeted work bench, and neat tools all around, a tinker for sure.  He told me he went through the whole thing and was just amazed at how simple and yet powerful it was.  It is…  and I love that feature on it.  It goes forwards and backwards and that is about it.  The lady opened one of the drawers to reveal another gold mine… all the original little green Singer boxes!  Full of things…  6 different fancy feet for hem stitching and bias tape creating and so on.  And the classic Singer buttonholer with extra templates!   The manual, different part and such for this machine.


And another bonus… a drawer full of vintage 1940’s to the 1970’s patterns!  From ladies fine dresses and men’s jammies, to little cute children ware.  All neatly folded and most were not even used.  More evidence that Grandma was a wanna-be home sewer that really just didn’t seem to want to actually sew other than collecting the parts.  Why could I see her out with her lady friends, in the early 1960’s dresses and hats at the corner Woolworth, peeking through the McCall pattern books and taking home the one they were going to sew for their children.  And why did I think that she promptly put the pattern and the notions needed promptly into her drawer and forgot about them?  Well, when I began to see lots of buttons and snaps and other notions in the drawers, all from the same time period or so, untouched, complete.


Well, I thought about it for a whole 2 seconds and then said, “I’ll take her.”  I handed him the money, which I dug out of both pockets.  I wasn’t going to horse-trade on this one.  I just couldn’t.  Every other machine I had seen in far worse case was at least $50 more around my parts.  I told him I wasn’t going to whittle the price down, it was worth every penny. The both smiled big.  Hey, I know when $20 is a good thing and it was clear these were not super rich folks, just a young couple really.  I just couldn’t bring myself to dicker and that is a huge thing.  I’ve gotten some sweet deals by lowball offers and cash in hand.  But I just couldn’t do it now.  Didn’t feel right.   I knew that I could bring this machine home tonight and in the morning I would be sewing away.  And I was.



They helped me load it in the car and I told them that my daughters and I had been looking for the perfect old Singer for at least a year now.  And this was it.  I said, tell Grandma tonight in your prayers that her machine is going to a great little farm and will be loved and used and a happy little part of our own dream.  They liked that and said they sure would.  The lady said that her Grandfather would be happy that someone was using the machine.  Grandma got it brand new as a gift from the family back around 1950, she said.  And now, its a gift for our family.


I left that sale with such a huge smile and a good feeling in my heart.  I can’t wait to get really sewing on this machine.  It took me all of twenty minutes to get the tension perfect on the machine.  Turns out the bobbin thread adjustment was a little off and when I finally tweaked it the right away, she sewed just perfect.  I have played with her for a while now, a few days in between feeling puny and it was just a dream!!!



I’m named her Betty because I found a lovely inscription in the big Singer book of sewing that was in the drawer with other treasures.  On Mother’s Day, 1951.  To  Betty from Chris.  Not sure if Chris was her son, or her husband or a friend.  But Betty just sounds good and Betty is now her new name.

So far, I’ve sewed up a feed sack tote back in record time and made the cat a little coat.  We’re so busy with holiday sales that it will be another week or two before I can really sit down and play with the new machine.  I have a lot of plans for it!  My daughters each have marveled over Betty.  I hope that with this machine they will learn to sew better and with more joy.  They can tolerably navigate on the Kenmore, but there are too many bells and whistles on it.  And heck, even just threading the thing, it’s like 14 different little places and such.  Betty has 5 points.  Easy peasy!



There’s a good chance that the patterns might be going on ebay after the first of the year.  Most are size 12 and will hardly fit anyone in our family.  And they are all vintage patterns, hardly the sort of thing that I’d be wearing about the farm anyway.  I’m sure there are some vintage sewing lovers out there and I’d love for them to go to someone interested in them.  There are 21 patterns in all.   The rest of the notions and such, I’ll keep with the machine.  They are a part of her history, a living time capsule of the sewing world of the 50’s and 60’s.  I do love the elbow patches and the little cards of sock mending wool!!!  How darling!

Even a box with a lovely pair of old pinking sheers!  And a jar of buttons.  Just delightful.



Just such a wonderful find and I’m so glad that I waited and watched and knew that someday, we’d have a good decent sewing machine.


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About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.


Good things come to those who wait… — 3 Comments

  1. I am so happy that you got the machine. That same model was the machine that I learned to sew on and my grandmother got it brand new from all of my aunts and uncles as a Christmas present. I guess I was about five when I started sewing little scrapes of material together to make a doll quilt top. The pictures sure brought back memories

  2. It’s a beautiful machine. Built to last, like they used to do.

    And who, by the way, is that handsome cat with the scarf? (:

  3. Oh wow! What a find. I have one of those as well, along with some accessories, although I can’t tell you what year. Sadly, I use mine mostly for display, as my dad left me a great work horse of a sewing machine that we use for our needs. I can’t believe what good condition yours is in.