Whether you have an old sewing machine that was your grandmother's or you picked one up at a yard sale or antique store, you might be in need of a little information on it. Maybe the manual is lost or damaged (only one of my four came with a legible manual), maybe it came with weird attachments you've never seen or maybe you're just curious about when and where your machine was made. Through the awesomeness that is teh interwebs, you can often find answers to all those questions and more!
I'll start with the brand of machine you're most likely to have: Singer. Singer didn't necessarily make the best machines out there, but they had the most effective marketing campaigns. They sold millions of their machines, and many of them survive today. Since there's so many of them they aren't worth much, but they're often quite pretty and still useful. Properly fixed up they will sew for a long time to come, and because so many of them exist it's not too hard to get replacement parts if needed. Here's my first Singer-
My first pretty lady (pre-cleaning), a model 66 Singer red eye.
The G is hard to read here but you get the idea
You now know where your machine was made and when, plus you have a model number and hopefully a manual. If you want to know about the history of your machine or Singer in general, or you're trying to figure out how to use one of the accessories it came with, the International Sewing Machine Collector's Society has a great website with a variety of information on lots of different types of sewing machines. Go here for their Singer stuff. I found that the 66 came in treadle, hand crank and electric varieties and had different decals depending on where and when it was made. Mine features so called "red eye" decals, one of the more common designs. Red eyes were made for the US market (common European versions featured a lotus design) and are so named for the exotic red eye shapes in the decal pattern.
The little sister to my first Singer, pre-cleaning
Serial number on the bottom right hand corner of the bed
No electricity for you!
Sweet little portable case
Tomorrow we'll have a look at a few other brands of sewing machines that don't have quite as large a web presence as Singers. Until then, here's a few more useful links!
www.treadleon.net- Great site with lots of information on restoring, using and maintaining vintage machines, mostly treadle versions. Check out their Sewing Machine Shop section.
www.tfsr.org/publications/technical_information/sewing_machine_manual/- Dedicated to refurbishing Singer machines to send to Africa. They've got an amazingly detailed step by step breakdown of how to take apart your machine to clean and repair it.
www.sewalot.com/sewalot_index.htm- Loads of articles covering machine histories
www.sil.si.edu/digitalcollections/trade-literature/sewing-machines/CF/index.cfm- This Smithsonian website gives you access to all the sewing machine literature they have in their database (includes manuals, trade cards, catalogs and more). Keep in mind that they only have literature relating to American made machines. Most of their stuff hasn't been scanned yet, so many of the entries are just descriptions. They do have pdfs of many of the manuals I've tried to look up so far though!
www.a1sewingmachine.com/parts.html- They claim that if they can't find the part you're looking for, it's not to be found. Haven't used them, so I can't validate their claim. I'll likely be putting them to the test soon!