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Mar 25, 2012

Peter speaks: The Singer Toy Sewing Machine VIDEO!



Readers, I received the most wonderful gift in the mail yesterday!  It's a vintage 1920's Singer Model 20 toy sewing machine.  It's in great condition and sews a beautiful chain stitch.  Thank you, reader Mary!

From what I could gather from my initial online research, this model was originally manufactured around 1910 and remained in production -- albeit in slightly more streamlined form -- up until the 1970's.  Many of you may know these later toy machines as the Singer Sewhandy.   They frequently show up on eBay.



These were handcrank machines, all metal, and were built to last.

From the top, the stitch looks like regular straight stitch, but the underside reveals the chain design that would look terrific as decoration on a Western shirt yoke.





I've made a short video of me using the machine.  I hope you enjoy it! 



It's hard to believe toy sewing machines were once so beautifully engineered and solidly constructed, when you consider that today they look like this.



In closing, have you ever used a toy sewing machine?   If you have more information to share about these wonderful old toy Singers, please do.  (BTW, what's the best way to ensure that a chain stitch never unravels?)

You can view additional closeup shots of the Singer Model 20 here.







Have a great day, everybody!

40 comments:

  1. That is awesome--thanks for sharing!

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  2. wow! thanks for posting. I've got a Wilcox & Gibbs slip stich treadle machine that I've yet to get working but couldn't resist when it was at my neighborhood consignment shop. I think I'll be able to figure it out now!

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  3. Whoa - Peter, not that I'm looking for a 'history of the technology of the sewing machine', but do you know which came first - this sort of machine (and this one is just a kiddy size of it), OR the bobbin machine?

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    1. Toby, I believe the first mechanical machines were chain stitch machines, and later the bobbin machine was developed, which could create a more secure stitch.

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    2. Peter - this must be the same sort of machine (maybe different conformation but that it does the same operation) which is used for sewing up bags of flour, etc . etc.

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  4. You are a very bad man. Go to your room without your supper or sewing machine right now.

    You do know what you have done, don`t you. You have got all of us going to eBay to find one of these things.

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  5. I LOVED this video -- thank you so much for posting it and for sharing that wonderful machine. Don't even get me started on the toy sewing machines of today. My son has been asking to learn to sew, and last year I bought him the only toy sewing machine I could find that was NOT pink plastic. It was white plastic, and it was absolutely wretched -- it sounded like a manic, drunken electric stapler, and the feed was so crooked that it was impossible even for me to sew a straight line with it. The light went out after a few minutes of using the machine, and was not a replaceable part. I returned the dumb thing in disgust. Maybe I should be looking for a vintage toy machine like yours instead?

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  6. Following on from your post about full-sized hand crank singer machines, for anyone in London, there's one going to be auctioned off tomorrow afternoon/evening(Monday) at the Criterion Auction House on Essex Road, Islington. Expected to go for about 50 - 80 pounds or so, but who knows? Saw it today whilst enjoying the sunshine.

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  7. I recently bought an Essex miniature sewing machine here in the UK which looks very similar to your singer and produces a beautiful chain stich too. This website gives you more info http://www.sewalot.com/essex_sewing_machine.htm

    I've found that if you pull the thread through the loop it stops it from coming undone. After getting this machine I then bought a vulcan minor sewing machine which is a beautiful red colour and exactly the same as the one my mum had as a child. It too produces a chain stitch. I love the fact both were made here in the uk, extremely unusual these days. Love your blog by the way.

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  8. Thanks, it's a lovely video. Four years ago my son was 6 years old, and he wanted a sewing machine, but I could only buy the Pink Barbie's sm, I didn't find another toy sewing machine in Mallorca. This only worked one month, was a real junk. He would have loved this one.

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  9. Cool video! It is a sweet little sewing machine!

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  10. Thanks for showing us that!! I love the sound it makes.

    Oh how I wish I had that as a little girl!! I think I mentioned on here before that I had a toy one back in the late sixties or early seventies, that I believe was plastic. Not good at all I'm afraid. My mom was so mad that it didn't work that I think she returned it, or it got put in the garage.
    I don't think I got to touch a sewing machine until I took a class when I was fifteen.

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  11. My grandma still has the old toy sewing machine that belonged to my mother and her sister in the early fifties---I will try and get photos of it one of these days. It's a hand crank chain-stitch machine as well, although not so sturdy as yours (and no table clamp that I recall). I think my mom may have made doll clothes on it at some point, but we never did anything more than mess around. I learnt to sew (starting at about 9) on my mom's real machine.

    I think the best way to keep a chain-stitch from unravelling is to hope it never, ever breaks. Oh, and you tuck the thread at the unravelly end through the next loop down (just like crochet) and then it will hold.

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  12. Peter, this cute little chain stitcher does not use regular 15x1 sewing machine needles. I believe it uses size 20x1 needles which can also be bought on Ebay.

    Have you tried any of the full size Kenmore, Singers or New Home machines that could do a chain stitch? In the 60's and 70's each of these manufacturers offered an accessory for a few of their models that would allow the machine to make a chain stitch.

    A few of the Singer Touch & Sews had a special needle plate that was part of the conversion kit. The Kenmore required a special needle plate and a "flipper" that replaced the standard class-15 bobbin case. The New Home had a cylinder with screw-like ridges that replaced it's class-15 bobbin case.

    Of the three, the New Home 900 is the nicest. Kenmore made several 158.xxxx models that had this feature as did Singer with their touch and sews.

    I know of several people who keep one of these machines set-up solely for chain stitching, including me (I have the Kenmore 158.1803, my very first sewing machine bought new in 1970).

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  13. I had one when I was a child unfortunately it got lost in one of our many moves I used to do a back stitch by hand at the end of the chain stitch

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  14. I had a lovely 1950s toy machine when I was a kid in the 1980s as a gift from my gandmother. I used it for about two years before I sewed my hand and Mum decided it wasn't a good toy to have. - Claire

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  15. Wow, the sound of that clickety-clickety-clickety just made my day, thanks.

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  16. Lovely to see you in motion, as well as the machine!

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  17. What a beautiful piece of history. After buying my (first!) vintage Singer I realise how well made these machines are- toy of full size. The plastic ones- full size or not just don't cut it.

    Loved the video.

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  18. Speaking of tiny, do you have a Featherweight? If not, is it on your acquisition list?

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  19. You used to wander the sidewalks of NYC and find treasures.

    Then your neighbor reduced your radius of good fortune (rice pudding!).

    Now, a reader has simply sent you a machine.

    It is now official and formally declared, that you, Peter Lappin, are now the center of the sewing universe.

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  20. Congratulations Peter!

    You really deserves this lovely present! I have been looking for vintage toy machines for a while, but they are highly collectibles and the prices are absurd(at least online). I was considering to buy an Essex, which is a clone of the Singer model 20 and was made after the WWII, as a low cost sewing machine for adults(!). The Essex uses the normal needle.

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  21. My very first sewing machine given to me for Christmas when I was 8 (in the 1950's) was very like this one. I remember I sewed lots of things on it - like the ubiquitous Barbie clothes and my very first me-sized dress - before I got a "real" electric sewing machine at age 13. Unfortunately my dad gave my Singer away when I failed to fetch it quickly enough after I got married in 1971. Sad really. He was so impatient when he was in a declutter mood!

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  22. Wonderful video for a wonderful machine! The detail shown is fantastic. I had bought one of those from a local shop a few years ago. I think mine is from 1914. It’s missing the C-Clamp, but a regular hardware store C-clamp works. This machine is oddly hypnotic. Even my husband enjoys turning the crank and watching the mechanism move -- even when there is no thread or fabric.

    It’s so solid it’s hard to believe it was meant to be a toy. I had three toy machines, as I recall. My mother bought progressively better ones as I got older. I wish I had them all today!! I had a great little Singer electric chain-stitcher that looked like my mother’s machine and I sewed all my Barbie clothes on it. I loved it . I think I used to pull the end of the thread back through the last loop and knotted it to keep it from unraveling.

    Testosterone is right. All of the sewing universe is converging at your house.

    Enjoy your new machine!

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  23. Oh how cute.
    My first sewing machine was a modern day toy sewing machine. I was probably 25 when I got it.

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  24. I have one of these little treasures but it isn't stitching. I have double checked that it is threaded correctly, everything moves but there is no chain stitch. Any suggestions?

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    1. I'd check the underside. Is the hook picking up the thread?

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    2. No, it doesn't even look like it is trying to catch the hook.

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  25. I suppose the chain stitch makes these great for doing anything you'll want to pull out later...

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  26. Dayum, I'm JELLUS! What a CUTE little machine! And it looks in perfectly pristine condition, too! Maybe you could come up with a cute little treadle arrangement to run it, and maybe a "flatbed' arrangement and then you could chainstitch away with BOTH hands! I guess you know by now to secure the one end of the stitch to keep it from unraveling; it's perfectly stable as a stitch if you do that. I want a machine that chainstitches; it would be handy to have for basting and fitting, and out it comes when you want to change it, with a mere tug!

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  27. Just catching up on my blogroll and came across this. I bought one of the 1953 Singer one this past fall from an antique store for $85. It's in really great condition with all the parts. The fact that it's mini makes me squeal every time I look at it!

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  28. Thanks so much for creating the video! My mother just gave me her Singer model 20 from the 1950's, in the original box, but the manual was missing. I wasn't sure how to thread #5. I am excited to share this easy to use machine with my children.

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  29. I have the exact same machine.

    It was frutuitous to find your blog about the Model 20 Singer. I took it in today to find out how to use it and to get a needle, but no needles were available.

    Do you know where needles can be had and what size needles it uses and where I can get a copy of the manual.

    I want to teach my granddaughter how to sew on this machine.

    Thank you very much

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    1. Paul, you can purchase a copy of the manual here:

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Singer-20-1-Toy-Childs-Sewing-Machine-MANUAL-INSTRUCTIONS-/400370011309?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d37e98cad

      You can buy needles for it here:

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Singer-20-Toy-Child-Sewing-Machine-10-NEEDLES-plus-1920s-1950s-INSTRUCTIONS-/400370011528?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d37e98d88

      Enjoy it!

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  30. Hi Peter
    I just got one without the manual, can you send me a scan image of the manual?

    much appreciated.

    George

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    1. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Singer-Toy-Sewhandy-Sewing-Machine-Manual-for-Model-20-Instruction-Booklet-/151084475765?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item232d562575

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  31. I have a a Sewhandy model # 20 with c-clamp & instruction manuel from 1953

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