A match made in hell


Remember those doodads I posted about last week? My research suggested they would fit a machine produced by the National Sewing Machine Company. My mother’s research uncovered two such machines in our immediate area, one in the collection of a local mini-museum my mom’s involved with, and another at a local thrift store.


The latter came home (or at least to my Mom’s house) as my belated birthday present.

It’s an “Improved Seamstress”, which was the house brand of the old Canadian Department store, Eaton’s, manufactured by National.


The exterior isn’t in great shape, but it runs, albeit in desperate need of a can or three of oil. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track down anything resembling a manual for it, and I haven’t the faintest clue how to wind and insert the shuttle, never mind thread it. Hopefully it’s a sufficiently generic model that I’ll be able to figure it out.


Perusal of my mother’s reproduction Eaton’s catalogues (what, your mother doesn’t have those?) suggests that it’s maybe younger than the 1901 catalogue but older than the 1921 catalogue, and that the “Improved Seamstress” was a bit less expensive than the actual “Seamstress”.


It has a set of Greist attachments, similar in style to my mom’s doodads, but not quite so well-built (or perhaps that’s just ridiculously over engineered), but lacking the ruffler, though I think one was there originally. It has the shuttle and four bobbins, and an assortment of distinctly non-standard needles.



Filed under Sewing

27 responses to “A match made in hell

  1. 2barbara

    this is a forum group dedicated to national sewing machines. they may be able to answer your questions.


  2. Try looking at http://www.ismacs.net. They are the sewing machine collectors society and have a lot of information about machines and free manuals for machines and accessories. They may have one for this machine.

  3. 2barbara

    is my email working? just checking

  4. Oh my, your mother really is an enabler. Enjoy your new toy.

  5. Ooh fun! I love the way those old treadles look. I’ve yet to attempt to use the one I found a while back (a Singer) but one day I will.

  6. Aha you’re Mom is a wicked enabler! πŸ˜€ Does the museum she’s involved with have any information or a copy of the manual? They might be able to help you there.

  7. *Scratches head* How exactly is this a match made in hell?

    • No, the machine is lovely. The match is my mother and I… Enabling city. >_< Which I would probably have been more clear about if I hadn't written this post on iPhone and been too lazy to edit…

      • Ha! *Still scratching* From where I sit a sewing enabling mom seems heaven sent… I have a chocolate enabling mom; it’s a good thing IMHO. πŸ˜‰

  8. The best thing about this deal could be that it is your machine, but it lives at your mom’s house! I keep seeing treadles on Craig’s List that I want, but I just don’t have the space. In high school I used to sew on a treadle at our family’s cabin and I remember the feeling of total control, especially with topstitching. Someday. . . meanwhile hope you have fun with it.

    • Well… My mom does not exactly have room for it either, though we are trying to set up a sewing space over there too. Yeah, I would occasionally stalk them on kijiji but my indecisiveness never let me really go for it. And the space thing. >_<

  9. That is so freaking cool!!! Where on earth did your mum find this? My mum would love this too! We still have an Eaton’s here, but sadly, there are no more Seamstresses…. just overpriced clothing and perfumes πŸ˜‰

    • Local Mennonite thrift shop. I know, I was like wtf?

      You still have Eaton’s?!? I thought the whole chain was gone. I kind of have a soft spot for old Eaton’s stuff… I especially love the houses. Not that I ever expect to own one of those….

      • LOL It was always Eaton’s so I think of it still that way, but I guess now technically it’s a Sears, because Sears bought them out; apparently they are closing it down at the end of the month though…sad to see the legacy go. Remember Woodwards? πŸ˜›

        • Ah, k. πŸ™‚ I remember there was a big issue when Eatons closed at the mall downtown. They were afraid the mall would just die. Eventually they got the Bay to move in. I wonder if the Bay had their own sewing machines. Hmm.

  10. Pingback: Holy Frock! | Tanit-Isis Sews

  11. Your machine looks super similar to one that I have (either converted from treadle to electric or one of the first electrics). I’ve determined that mine was a Free, so perhaps the Free manual could help you learn yours? http://www.ismacs.net/free/manuals/freevs_c_e_ce_manual.pdf

  12. My mother is an enabler too. I finally caved and let her teach me to knit, because I really needed another hobby, and then she promptly gave me a bunch of needles and patterns and took me yarn browsing… which has resulted in an almost instant acquisition of a mini yarn stash. And now she keeps threatening me with crochet. So far I am resisting… but amigurumi call…

    Then again, I’m an enabler as well. I gave her a gift voucher for a fancy yarn shop last Christmas. Yep, I gave a yarn voucher to a woman who has her current yarn stash stored in four 110 litre plastic bins. And the yarn was squished into ziplock bags first to reduce their volume. And she’s starting on the next bin. I really hope she retires soon to knit full time!

    Still, nothing like a shared interest with your mum. I love it and its fantastic that your mum was able to help you with this πŸ™‚

  13. SueG

    I just got one of these Improved Seamstress treadles from my sister. I was trying to find some history about it and figure out how to thread it. I just spotted your blog through a google search of pictures. Thanks for the bits of info. Still trying to thread it. lol.

  14. I spied an Improved Seamstress at a second hand/antique store and found your blog while looking for info on it. I realy want it but . . . It’s $300 so, yeah. I would love to hear more about it, like how it sews, what brand of attachments it takes, anything at all!

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