The ladies I hang out with…

are ladies that need a lot of attention, but their company is so rewarding.

To start from the beginning, we are presently helping our parents move from a home they have been in for forty years to a seniors’ home.  There is a lot to go through – some is moved with them, some is passed on to us, some is given to charity, recycled or discarded.  It is a massive undertaking and I empathize with those who have to do the same.

The lovely thing about it all is the history.  Objects seem to have no allure for me unless there is a story attached to them.  We have come across this wonderful photo…


The lady on the left is my aunt and on the right is my mother.  I know that my mother always sewed – altering and mending, remaking and recycling everything she could get her hands on.  My aunt was formally educated to be a seamstress when she was a young girl in Europe.  Although she was too elderly when I knew her to be doing any sewing, I heard her stories and saw her photos.  The dresses in this photo were made by her.  She could make anything for anyone, creating her own patterns along the way.  I was very pleased when my mother passed on to me their now Vintage Sewing Machines (VSM).

My aunt’s VSM is a Singer 15-88.  This lovely lady is called “Ilona”.  Her serial number tells me she was born between 1948 and 1954 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada.  Considering my aunt came to Canada in 1948 that sounds correct.  She, like me, would not have been able to survive without a sewing machine!  Ilona is now dirty and her gears are frozen and she is missing her treadle belt, but I’m going to get her going again.  Some of her decals are missing in the front where my aunt’s hand rubbed, but that I will never repair – there is a story behind that wear.


I seriously thought this face plate was brass when I first saw Ilona, apparently it is a shiny chrome.  I’ll get her back to form.


Fabric fibers, spider webs and dust in the bobbin shuttle/hook assembly.


Even more sadly the treadle cabinet is broken and will have to be repaired.


Luckily the original manual for this Singer 15-88 was in the treadle cabinet drawer, along with many other nifty gizmos for Ilona.  I’ll have to show them to you someday.  This manual is for a Singer 15-88 and 15-89.  The difference being a Singer 15-88 has a treadle stand and the Singer 15-89 has a hand crank on the side, which makes it portable.


Ilona is an oscillating shuttle sewing machine.  The hook in this bobbin shuttle rocks back and forth – something new to me.  My Janome 3160 QDC has a rotary hook.  It travels in circles around the stationary bobbin.


I call my mother’s VSM “Maria”.   What’s interesting about this lovely lady is that the badge on her says “Ford deluxe” but she wasn’t manufactured by Ford Motor Company.  Through the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, the Japanese manufactured many sewing machines based on Singer sewing machines.  They were so much alike that the parts could be interchangeable.  Quite often they were given American names.  Large retailers would also purchase them and place their own names on them too.  They were usually quite colourful and even more importantly, well made.

It might be difficult to see from this photo, but even under a layer of dust and dirt, Maria’s colours are fabulous!


The paint is a bit chipped, but hopefully Maria cleans up well and no one will notice!


At least this bobbin shuttle/hook assembly looks cleaner.  This might be the VSM that my Mom says she “dropped something in it and it doesn’t work anymore”!  Oh well, I’ll clean it out.  We’ll see.


I do love that badge.


As with the other sewing machine cabinet, this cabinet shows some damage too.  If I can’t fix it (I know nothing about woodworking), I shall have to be on the look out for another cabinet.


As I was taking photos, I noticed Sophie giving me a hand (teeth?) removing some stray threads.


How can I help not being inspired by these lovely ladies, Ilona and Maria, who produced such wonderful garments …


I certainly have learned a lot about these VSM’s since receiving them from my mother and I plan on learning and doing a lot more with them.  My husband, Mr. Green Thumb, asked me the other night, as I was sewing on my Janome 3160 QDC – Are you going to take that one apart too?  No, I said, not yet anyway.  I don’t know anything about computerized sewing machines … yet!

If you know any thing about these VSM’s or have any other information that can help, we would love to hear from you!

I just want to give credit to the different web sites that I have come across that have helped me.  If you need information too, check them out!
and on Facebook:
Vintage Sewing Machines
Vintage Singer Sewing Machines
Vintage Sewing Machines (Non-Singer)

Happy Sewing!


36 thoughts on “The ladies I hang out with…

  1. Such beautiful old photos- lovely ladies! And the VSMs are lovely too of course. I get all my spares, and advice, from the fantastic Helen Howes []. She’s an absolute guru of vintage repairs and so on. hope you manage to get them both working, if not, at least prolong their useful existence by breaking them up for spares and passing them along.

    1. Thanks! and thanks for the site. I’ll go take a look! I’m patient, so just as long as it is nothing too serious, I will take the time with them.

      1. These old machines are lovely to have around, even if they don’t work…if you can get them going, you can discover some amazing goodies [like my precious Singer buttonholer and pin tuck attachment!]

        1. This Singer has attachments too, but they are so different I don’t know what’s what! But I’ll learn.

          1. Look on Helen Howes site, she has pics of loads and loads to make it easier to identify. If you still can’t, email her with the pics and she’ll soon sort you out.

  2. I got a Singer 15-88 that was completely locked up, too. I oiled everything, then gently tapped the linkages on the bottom right with a rubber mallet until it started moving, which is probably not what you are supposed to do. But it works perfectly now, so I didn’t do any damage. You are supposed to have patience – oil it with kerosene, set it in a warm place, oil it some more the next day, and repeat until you get it unstuck.

    My machine was frozen, absolutely packed with lint, and had solidified grease on the presser foot bar, but after a day of cleaning, it worked as good as new. These machines are definitely worth fixing up. Treadle sewing machines make great jeans machines, since your legs provide a lot of power. I also find it much easier to get accurate topstitching when sewing on a treadle machine – you can’t beat that perfect speed control!

    Here’s a tip it took me a while to discover, since you are always cautioned against getting alcohol on the finish of the old black sewing machines: Rubbing alcohol works very well to remove old yellow dried oil off metal parts like face plates and presser feet. Just don’t get any alcohol on the black finish, because it will dissolve the shellac topcoat.

    1. Well… thanks for the encouragement. You sound like you worked on your’s for a while but it was worthwhile. Thanks for the tips too about the kerosene and the alcohol.

      1. It was chipping out that solid old grease that made mine take so long. As long as no one has done something like that to yours, it shouldn’t take that long.

        1. Yes, it can be a really messy job, I hear. I will have to wear those laytex (or whatever) gloves because I have sensitive skin (gross, huh?)

  3. Beautiful machines and so wonderful to know their history. Looking forward to seeing the bits included with them and how they transition to becoming yours K xXx

    1. It’s going to be a challenge for me, but interesting to learn.

  4. My old treadle was locked solid when she arrived but sews beautifully now. I’m looking forward to retirement to have more time to use my VSMs. Enjoy yours. They deserve the attention.

    1. Lucky you to have the free time coming! It will be a slow process with me as I am still working. But I’m patient!

      1. I can’t wait but I’m going to have to live forever to complete all of my plans 😂

        1. Well I think that is perfect motivation – sew and sew until the day I’m gone… and hopefully keep sewing where ever I end up after that! 🙂

  5. All lovely ladies!

  6. gorgeous machines. love the stories behind them! (and its always good to have some back up machines!)

    1. Thank you! I have been reading about collectors who have 50 machines and no where to put them. Apparently it can get addictive!

  7. You do hang out with some lovely ladies! I love that you have these old machines, and the stories (not to mention family connection) that go with them. The blue ford is just beautiful. [I’d love to have my mom’s old Bernina one of these days….but that would involve transporting a solid metal machine across the country.] I know you’ll enjoy your new old friends!

    1. Thanks! It is amazing how heavy these old machines are. I can’t even imagine what the shipping costs would be if you had to do that!

  8. Fascinating look at history through sewing machines and old-style practicality. Best wishes to your parents. I remember seeing your dad parked in front of the TV watching golf while your mom was busy chatting in the kitchen. Looong time ago.

    1. Thank you. I will probably find out more about “the ladies” as time goes by. Thank you for reading and commenting and remembering my parents especially. I will mention you to them – I know my Mom will remember you. Dad is still parked in front of a TV watching golf and Mom is still chatting, although they have taken her kitchen away from her. Life changes!

  9. Such a beautiful story, and lovely machines to cherish – thank you, Linda!

    1. Oh thank you! Everyone has those special memories, don’t they?

  10. The lovely ladies look fantastic. All your hard work is paying off. I can’t wait to hear that you’ve added the Rocketeer to your collection. I think the Rocketeer will have the soul of a dashing young man. The lovely ladies will adore him.

    1. Well! Now you’ve just made the lovely ladies (and me) yearn for the Rocketeer even more!

  11. This is a beautiful post. I also love hearing the stories behind objects and items. I’ve looked at that photo of our aunt and our mother so many times. I knew our aunt was a seamstress but I never knew she had designed those dresses.

    You’re doing a great job restoring these beauties. 👌

    1. Thank you! It’s going to take a while to get them all cleaned, polished and running, but it’s something I’m interested in (even without the family momento status, which makes them extra special) and I love doing it.

  12. Thank you for sharing these beautiful machines and their even more beautiful previous owners. These machines have soul and I love the musical noise they make. May they give you years of pleasure!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment! They are very special to me! 😍😍

  13. The very first machine I used, and sewed through the tip of my finger with, was a that treadle machine of mom’s. After I cleaned up the mess I must say Barbie was the belle of the ball. There is a lot of wear and tear on our mother’s machine, I know as I caused some of it, but those machines are solid and were made to last many life times. You are doing a beautiful job cleaning them up and I would love to see the little VSM in action again. I agree with Fadanista, I loved the musical sound, the rhythm that flowed when you were sewing along on the old machines.

    1. It is a reminder of a special time, isn’t it! (Forget about the blood though!). When I got the Singer it was frozen, still working on that. The Ford deluxe apparently has a smelly motor, but I can always get another of those!

  14. What absolutely beautiful machines, and even better that there is such a lot of family history to go with them. If only they could talk. Your Mum and Auntie look fabulous and very well dressed ladies. I really liked the links and have used some of them recently to get info on my “new” VSM too. I really hope that you manage to fix these two beautiful old ladies up. They really knew how to make machines in those days. The stitch quality on vintage Singers is fantastic. Xx

    1. Thank you! I love the old stories that go along with vintage and antique items. Quite often older people can’t remember or have nothing to say, but show them a photo or an item and the past all comes back to them. I would love to see your VSM. Have you posted it yet?

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