In my rocketship

I’m a little down today, having encountered some surprising negativity… and I, of course, am a wee bit sensitive.  Or a lot.  I might be famous for it.  But never you mind – I am resolved to put it behind me, so onto today’s post!

One of  my favorite kitschy tunes… it relates to the subject of this post!

I’ve been wanting to get a second machine.  You know, for when the Bernina is in the shop.  Or… um… because I want one.  Specifically, I wanted a vintage machine.  I love my modern machine, but I also like the idea of connecting to the sewing past.  I decided I wanted a Singer, because my great grandma was wicked awesome on the treadle, and I love the history of the company.  I’ve always wanted one, and I was disappointed when buying my modern machine that Singer isn’t what it once was.

Once you decide that you want a vintage machine, there are many questions to answer – do you want treadle or electric? (electric for me.)  Do you want a small or full-sized model? (full sized!  I’m not traveling with my machine!)  What features matter to you? I wanted a really good straight stitch, with the ability to sew through thick fabrics.  I wanted an all metal machine.  Any extra stitches are nice, but other than zig-zag I don’t use them much.  I like the button-holer on my regular machine, but like I said I would like a backup.  And then there is the question of looks: to get a classic black singer, or one of the more modern looking models?   My Mother-in-law has a Singer 201, the classic black machine.  It’s beautiful and sews really well.  I thought about getting one of my own, until I saw the model I just purchased on Ebay.

photo credit: Swayframe

The photo above is of a Singer 503.  I actually purchased the 500A, the same machine basically, but with more built-in stitches (top of the line in 1961!)  They are gear driven, all metal, and use cams for the decorative stitches that are not on board.

The 500 series is called the “Rocketeer,” for obvious reasons.  It’s so space age-y, I just love it!  I also love that it’s the “Slant-o-matic.”  Everything sounds cooler with “o-matic” at the end!

Here is the machine I’m actually getting, as soon as it makes its way through the postal service!

Notice the dial in the middle, which you use to set the different stitches – this is the difference from the 503.  I’m very pleased that it has a bunch of feet, (including a ruffler, which I wanted!) cams, stitch plates, and the original manual.  The cams are the black circles – it comes with 5, and they are easy to buy on ebay.  I made sure to ask lots of questions, and the overall condition looks excellent and clean (including the interior mechanics,) so hopefully it runs well!  The seller says it was her Mother’s, and that she sewed on it until her death a few years ago.  I made sure to ask if she had actually tested it sewing, and she had.

I’m hoping to find a table that will fit this machine, so that I can recess it – it has a drop-in bobbin, unlike the Bernina, and it doesn’t have a free arm, so there is no reason to not make it level with the table surface (these reasons are why I don’t want a table with my other machine… I am forever switching bobbins around, and sometimes the free arm is handy, though I confess I more often sew small diameters inside out.

Christmas ad, circa 1961

The 500A is labeled #1 here.  Check out the great turquoise machine at #7.

And yes, I have officially lost my mind.  I will be sure to post when the machine actually arrives, but I was so excited to buy it – I’ve been ebay stalking them for over a month!

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39 thoughts on “In my rocketship

  1. Audrey says:

    Oh, you’re going to love your Rocketeer! I sew on a 401A Slant-O-Matic (that I got for $100 with a cabinet and everything!!) It is essentially the same machine without the mod styling. It is so solid, and it’s great fun to open it up to clean & oil & grease the gears and whatnot.

    I hope you love it!

  2. I am green with envy! I love my Janome, but I’d LOVE to have a hefty madam like that! I’d feel like I’m sewing with purpose. Haha!

  3. I would love a treadle machine machine myself. I have 2 electric models that I have yet to use actually. hmmm…

    Speaking of buttonholes. I used a vintage buttonhole attachment on an old singer and it was the most fantastic thing I ever used. i would recommend looking into that and seeing if there is one that will fit your rocketship, there probably is, and you can most likely ebay that as well.

    Definitely a cool looking machine. My partner’s mom has an old singer that is tiffany box blue. very cool.

  4. Khadija says:

    Just wanted to say I love your blog and am a beginning seamstress (my mother was an expert and so I took the skill for granted until recently. I always joke that it skips a generation because my mother’s grandmother was the seamstress as well!). I love hearing about your projects and how they are going. It motivates me to try new things. Keep up your experiments!

  5. This is so funny – I just posted on my Mum’s green vintage Elna last night, and this morning I wake up and you have a post on a vintage Singer!
    It looks amazing and I hope it goes as good as it looks! The old machines sure were built to last. I love the old instruction manuals too – Mum’s had a full page on how to darn your silk stockings!

  6. Good luck with your new machine! I am going to post more on the one my mom found–it’s model no. 66, manufactured in 1914, and was originally a treadle before being retrofitted with a cord. And it sews just fine, but straight stitch only, of course.

  7. Melanie says:

    I have the #7 one – and it’s not turquoise in person, it is that lovely avacado green (at least that is the color it has turned over time, it used to be more blue when I was a kid I remember).

    • Now that I look, it is more avocado – but that’s a nice color too! I love the different colored machines of the 50s and 60s – I saw a really pretty pink Dressmaker model at a thrift store awhile ago.

  8. Alison says:

    I think this is the machine my mom has. It’s her only one and she still uses it. You can make great things on it!

  9. That is one serious sewing machine! I used to sew on an old olive-green Bernina, so I appreciate their solid-ness and dependability. Once you get it going, I imagine that thing will never let you down.
    Congrats on the purchase!

  10. It’s a beautiful machine! I’d seriously considered getting one, but eventually decided on a Necchi instead– and then another Necchi. :P The Necchis are sleek– but I was missing the rocket-like look, so when I saw an old Dressmaker machine with lots of chrome and futuristic dials at the thrift shop, I grabbed it. (Yeah, I’ve gone a little machine-crazy lately.)

    I hope you have fun with your machine. It looks like a great investment.

  11. OH welcome to the Rocketeer club!! I have one two that I got recently. I looove it. You are gonna have so much fun playing around.

    Also, for the feet, they have a quick release foot and associated feet too if you get tired of unscrewing the foot during replacement.

    And be careful with the moving doors/lids/covers, especially the front door on the machine that has the logo, as they can have a tendency to break if mishandled. Good spare parts can be found via e-bay if needed.

    Have fun!

  12. Hi Jessica! Thanks for your message – it is so lovely to hear from you and makes the blog a much more personal experience for me! As for your post today – that is so funny, I have just pulled out my own Singer 201K from the late 1950’s! I love the solid feel of the older machines, they almost feel like little pieces of engineering rather than simple sewing artifacts! In all honesty, I don’t know what I intend to do with it – space is much more of an issue here in London so I am unable to purchase a table to ‘sink’ the unit into and have it out permanently. Seems such a shame to leave her in storage though! I adore the look of your 500A – I’ve never seen one before. Please don’t think I’m some kind of cyber stalker or anything, but you really have no idea how much I resent the ocean that exists between us! I have a feeling we would be great friends if we were local to one another! Sorry to hear that you are feeling down. It is obvious, even from your writing style, that you are a kind and genuine woman. Stay strong and don’t let others grind you down!

    M xx

  13. So. Much. Fun!

    Discovered yoru blog and must thank you for re-energizing my interest in sewing! Love your choices and since I have a new body to sew for (loooonnggg boooooring story), I am stepping out of my box and trying new things.

    Hope the blue day turned out all for the better.

  14. Pam says:

    Hi- I enjoy stopping by your site now and then. You will love your vintage machine. Many of today’s machines are made with plastic parts and doomed to die with heavy use. These oldies are all metal and just keep on going!! If you ever get into sewing for your home, a good old heavy machine is just the ticket. Enjoy!!
    -Pam

  15. Loved the Dinah Washington clip while reading your post. Getting your new machine will be so much fun! I have a Bernina that my mom gave me about 30 years ago and I still love it!

  16. I have the Singer 503 and got it over 35 years ago for a Christmas present. Even then it was used, but I didn’t care and now I wouldn’t give mine up for love nor money–it just sews and sews and sews. The difference is that these old machines have metal gears and never wear down, and they just go and go, like Pam said above. Good find!

  17. How exciting! You will find it your vintage machine to be quite different than the modern ones; they have a very solid feel to them what with the all-metal construction. I have a Singer 301 with the original cabinet and bench. Since it predates yours, it does not have the slant needle. Will be interested to know what you think of that feature.

    Have fun with yours!

  18. My mom has one of the Rocketeers, which I learned to sew on. It’s still in great shape and I hope to inherit it someday. You will love it, I promise.

  19. Diana says:

    Cool looking machine!

    I’ve enjoyed seeing your knitting projects and, like Ann above, have now been getting inspired by your sewing projects. I sewed for many years before fairly recently picking up knitting (a result of having my son and needing more portable projects). Between seeing your projects and needing to back off the knitting for my arm’s sake, I actually did some sewing this weekend!

  20. Barbara says:

    Hi – Can’t wait to hear how you enjoy the new machine. Hope you enjoy it. I’ve been thinking about buying one too and have been watching ebay. Right now tho I have two touch n sew singers from the later 60s and two modern machines (and two sergers) so I have to control myself. But you never know.

    I really enjoy your blog – thanks for all your writings.

  21. Katie says:

    I have a 500A! It was my Grandmother’s and the first time I sewed on it I was in 8th grade. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am about to embark on Amy Butler’s Weekender Bag and I can’t imagine making it with any other machine. Enjoy!

  22. Karen says:

    This is my first comment, but I had to say something about your lovely new machine! You will LOVE it!!! I have the 401A, its fraternal twin. Yours look to be in wonderful condition.

  23. Karen says:

    Oh, and what I wouldn’t give for #5 in that old ad… a white Featherweight!! Gahhhh!! I’d be happy with a black one, too, actually.

  24. Elizabeth says:

    I still have my slant-o-matic (same model you’re getting). My best friend gave it to me many years ago when we were high school or college age; it belonged to her grandmother.
    I love it. I think it’s beautiful. It connects me with the past. And it sews like a dream.
    The man who used to service my machine would remind me at each tune-up that if I ever wanted to get rid of it, he would buy it. “They don’t make sewing machines like that any more.”
    Sadly, he died a few years ago, and I bet that machine will outlast me, too.
    Congratulations on your new/old Slant-o-matic. Enjoy.
    By the way, you might check with the person from whom you bought the machine whether they still have the aprox. 5″x7″ case that the manual, cams and attachments come in. It has fitted compartments and a till, all in the same color as the sewing machine. It doesn’t mention Slant-o-matic on the case (just Singer), so they may not realize the case goes with that machine.

  25. Debby says:

    Love your blog and miss reading your updates. Your sewing has inspired me and I’ll be dragging my old machine out this summer. I hope you are well and just busy…

  26. I have my grandmother’s machine that drops below the table. Right now it is just a decoration, but one day I will learn how to use it. How wonderful fun for you!

  27. Wow, cool looking sewing machine. I just picked up my mother’s old Bernina sewing machine she bought in the 70’s. It is a workhorse and very heavy. Only used it a little since I brought it home since I need to buy bobbins for it. Are there ever enough bobbins? I’ll try and post photos of this machine on my blog soon. Still, not cool looking like yours though;)

  28. oooooh, I am so jealous….. I really would love a slant-needle machine, but they do not seem to have been made very available in my country (australia) as I have never come across one… and a ROCKETEER at that!! Really is one of my dream machines. Can’t wait to read about it when it finally arrives!

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