Last November, on Small Business Saturday, I was at the local quilt shop when I spotted a bunch of vintage machines on a table in the classroom. I made a bee-line toward them, and started chatting up Susan Sobon, who newly-owned the array of machines. With them was a Featherweight, a super-cute toy chain stitch machine, and a Montgomery Ward-badged National Reversew.
The poor National was sad to see – the bobbin tire was hardened and cracked; the friction tire that drives the motor was flat on one side; the attachments were rusted, and her cords had been cut. Susan said to me, “You can have it if you want it.” What? ME? You don’t have to tell me twice. Thank you Susan!
I named the machine Audrey Hepburn because no matter what that woman wears she is always elegant, and I thought that the machine was elegant even though it needed some work. (Don’t get me wrong: I know she was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a courier for the Resistance during WWII, and a talented artist… but most people remember her iconic look first.)
I took the machine to my “guy”… the guy who fixes up all my vintage machines. He cleaned her up, rewired her, repaired her case, replaced the stuff that was broken, and tried to clean up all the attachments. Let me give you the grand tour!
Here is Audrey from the top; you can see her sleek appearance and all threaded! Her case has been oiled and she’s been given a good cleaning. She’s a 3/4 size machine, so not much bigger than a featherweight.
Look at that face! Isn’t that just the 40’s Art Deco screaming at you? The chocolate finish is called crinkle or Godzilla; it’s not meant to be shiny.
Here’s a shot of the bobbin winder, with the new tire and the Montgomery Ward badge. National made this machine under many different badges; I’ve seen one called American Beauty, Coronado, and simply, Reversew. (Factoid: National eventually became Janome through a series of mergers and acquisitions.) This is a shuttle bobbin, which is personally for me very exciting since I love these long bobbins! Do you notice the heart on the winder mechanism?
Here is the shuttle bobbin case – it looks like a long bullet. It has an interesting way of threading that I don’t remember. Fortunately the manual came with!
Here’s where the bobbin fits in, and you can see the little red felt oiling point. Most of the time on these old machines, the felt is faded and dusty and looks like a big wad of lint; but it’s supposed to be there. Replacing it with a piece of red felt is a great reminder that this isn’t an accidental dust magnet.
The needle is threaded from left to right, rather than from front to back, so it’s installed sideways. It takes the hard-to-find 20×1 needle style. I have a pack and they are very dear! Notice also the top clamping feet… those are also unusual.
Here you can see the friction-drive motor with the new tire. Isn’t that a cool piece of technology?
When storing a machine with a friction drive motor, you want to put something soft between the motor and the machine to lift the tire away from the wheel. That will keep it from developing a flat spot.
Here is where the cords go. I was very lucky that the cords were only cut, and not that the prongs were missing. These prong styles are hard to find replacements for.
Here’s a shot of Audrey under the hood. She’s super clean but still a little smelly. There’s that rare pack of needles!
You know, I used to work at Montgomery Ward. It was in the summer after I graduated from college but before I started my engineering job. I learned a lot about folding towels and merchandising. They didn’t adapt to the changing world of department stores and closed not long after I went off to my permanent job. There’s a metal plate inside with the serial number, but the instructions about visiting a store for parts are no longer valid. 🙂
Here are all the attachments that cleaned up well enough to be used on the machine. Cool feet, eh? Check out the screwdrivers and extra bobbins. There are a lot of binder feet in different sizes.
These parts couldn’t be saved, and they are the ones I’m saddest about. One is a bobbin cover with a guide, rusted beyond repair. The other two are a ruffler and tucker; seriously sad about those two and hope I can find replacements.
So that’s Audrey in all her glory! Isn’t she a beaut? Oh and I forgot to mention… she sews like a dream and makes one of the most charming straight stitch I’ve ever seen. 🙂
Do you have any vintage machines? Tell me about your favorite!