I Am Now Ready for the Zombie Apocalypse

With my new off-the-grid sewing machine.

I found it at the charity shop here for 50 Euros. Fortunately, my daughter was with me, and didn’t think it was entirely crazy to help me carry it home. I mean, after all, you could pay twice that much just for the cast-iron stand, right? Who cares if the machine works?

sewing (1 of 8)

We looked up the model number online, and found that it was a German-made Singer, from a factory in Wittenberg that also made munitions in WWII. After the war, the factory ended up in the Russian sector and was looted. So, no literature available on this baby. But as best we can tell, it dates from well before the war, because it has no indication of any hookups for the optional electric motors that Singer started adding to later machines. So, it is probably about 100 years old.

It was just filthy, and judging from the bits and pieces of sewing notions left in the drawers, had clearly been in someone’s basement or attic for a few decades.

Vacuum, then wash down with soap and water.
Vacuum, then wash down with soap and water.

I loves me a project just like this one. I come from a long line of grease monkeys, and taking something like this apart is my idea of a good time. I don’t get nearly enough of these activities when living in government housing overseas.

Cleaning and shining up.
Cleaning and shining up.
All cleaned up.
All cleaned up.

Of course it was missing a few parts, but did you know that it is actually quite easy to find parts for these old treadle-powered Singers online? They are still used in parts of the world with unreliable electricity. Since they are pretty much indestructible, and actually quite useful for sewing heavy materials like canvas and leather, there are many still in use even in first world countries. I learned how to sew on one myself, when I was a little kid. I think my mother figured it was probably safer than an electric machine.

eBay replacement parts.
eBay replacement parts.

In fact, as often happens with these things, while looking for instructions online, I stumbled into a whole world of passionate collectors of old sewing machines. It turns out that my German machine is the rough equivalent of a Singer series 15 that was manufactured in Scotland during the same period. So, I learned how to thread and run it from delightful British videos like this one and this one.

I got the belt hooked up, replaced the bobbin tire, and wound a perfect bobbin. Yay!

Successful bobbin-winding.
Successful bobbin-winding.

The only real difference between American Singers and European Singers, I discovered after quite a bit of head-scratching, is that the bobbin case is made exactly the opposite way of an American one. Just because. So, once I figured that out, I ordered a “spulenkapsel” off of German eBay, and I was good to go. (Besides, I got to say “spulenkapsel” a lot, which was fun.)

Today, I put in the bobbin case, and used my perfectly operational century-old sewing machine. I love the sound that the treadle makes.

Now, you may ask, why on earth would I go to all this trouble for a treadle sewing machine? No reason, really, except that I like old stuff, and I like to fix things.

Also, after the zombies come, I want to be sure I can still take up my jeans.


  1. Ooh, my grandmother has one of these old sewing machines. It was a little loud when she would use it, but the rhythmic humming was a little soothing and I now equate it to beautiful things being made!


  2. Looks exactly like the one I recall your grandmother Jewell using back in the ’40’s and ’50’s.


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