To infinity and beyond!

Today, my Dad dropped off a slightly bittersweet present: the sewing machine that belonged to his mother. My grandma* (who gave me these quilts and also this fabric) is moving from her small senior’s apartment to an even smaller room in a care home, where there will be people around a little more continuously. I’m sad for her, (especially giving up her machine) but hopeful that she’ll be well taken care of.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet

I hadn’t really thought much about her machine. The last time I snooped it, I think I was nine or ten, and I remember being unimpressed. Obviously my tastes are a little more refined these days, because now I find it quite charming in that mid-century way.

Buzz Lightyear, eat your heart out.

Buzz Lightyear, eat your heart out.

I once claimed my other grandma’s machine looked like a rocket ship. Well, this one is DEFINITELY going to the moon. Actually, the comparison between the two machines is kinda fascinating, since as far as I can tell they were both purchased within a year or two of each other in the early sixties. My maternal grandma—okay, I give up, I’m going to call her Grandma South—‘s machine is a Japanese-made Singer 15 clone, a sturdy old-fashioned straight-stitcher dressed up with a nice coat of paint and some cute decals. Kinda like a horse and buggy sporting racing fins. My paternal grandma (henceforth, Grandma North)’s machine, on the other hand, is full of newfangled gadgetness.

We Are New Technology

We Are New Technology

It starts with this proud patent label. This is not your Grandma’s sewing machine, Grandma. Er.

Mysterious Dial.

Mysterious Dial. The wrong settings probably bring on planetary destruction.

But seriously. Aside from the zig-zag, it has what looks like a plate for cams on the top (I have no cams, but my Dad thinks there’s another box of odds ‘n ends that are sewing-machine related still back at his house, so I shall live in hope for another day or two). And a very mysterious dial. I hope there’s a manual in there, too. Although I can ask Grandma, if push comes to shove.

Drop in bobbin.

Drop in bobbin.

And it has a drop in bobbin. I had no idea these went back to the early sixties—I feel kinda like an archaeologist who unsealed the Pharaoh’s tomb only to find Pharaoh buried with his iPhone.

Remove, Darn, and Stitch

Remove, Darn, and Stitch

I have not actually tried any sewing with it yet, although I presume it’s in working order—it’s been a while since Grandma made a quilt, but I imagine she’s mended the odd thing. Speaking of which, I had assumed this lever dropped the feed dogs, since it says “darn” in the middle position (machine darning being like free-motion quilting, usually done with the feed-dogs dropped). Well, it doesn’t. What it does is lift the needle-plate. If you move the lever all the way to the left, it pops the needle plate right out. Crazy, no? I’m presuming this is one of those aforementioned “patents” that didn’t catch on like wildfire… but maybe I’m naive. Anyone else ever seen a machine that “dropped” the feed dogs by raising the needle plate?

Grandma's Pantry

Grandma’s Pantry

In addition to the machine, I was handed two large boxes from Grandma’s kitchen. Mostly food, dried pantry stuff, which is nice enough, although I have no idea what I’m going to do with three bags of shredded coconut. Unless I find Grandma’s recipe for Coconut Mountains**, which were one of the highlights of the Christmas season of my childhood, but that seems a lot like work, and baking would take away from my sewing time. Anyway, much of the stuff we can use, and eventually use up—but it included the contents of the spice cabinet, a random array of little bottles, some of which are older than I am, although I’m going to assume that the contents have been consumed and replaced many times over the years. Anyway, I find them adorable in their slightly gungy glory. I have no idea what I’ll do with most of them, however.

*I grew up calling both my grandmothers “Grandma.”  This makes it a little awkward in the context of the blog, since it’s not immediately obvious that I’m not talking about my maternal grandmother, whose machines I’ve already scoped out here. My kids are much luckier, having a Momo and a Gigi and a Nanny (sometimes referred to as Kokum).

**A search for “Coconut Mountains” only turned up this recipe. These look nothing like the things my Grandma made (I’m not convinced hers were even baked) but I suppose the idea is similar. Grandma’s always had the tips dipped in chocolate “snow”



Filed under Sewing

49 responses to “To infinity and beyond!

  1. Great Singer machine! However it is said that your Grandma is moving to even smaller place. These are painfull moments… I hope she will enjoy this place for a long time 🙂

  2. Looks like a rocket indeed! beautiful! 🙂 let us know how it sews when you try it. As for the feed-dogs and the needle plate, well, there´s an old saying that involves Mahoma and the mountain ;-). A friend of mine adds shredded coconut to her porridge for breakfast. I just sprinkle some cinnamon.

  3. What a great machine & gift. Its a rocketeer! Fresh oil and the free manual on singers website is all you need. I collect singers and that one is on my bucket list. Enjoy and think of all the items your grandma made in its lifetime! You are very lucky.

  4. I so craved a Rocketeer…until I finally got over my SMAD ;-). It still remains one of my favorite machines for looks though – cherish it for its unique beauty and its source! May your Grandmother receive the best of care and loving attention in her new home 🙂

  5. LinB

    What a marvelous machine! I hope you figure it out in time to play with it this summer. My grandmothers both died before I was born, so I have no idea what they’d have wanted to be called. My parents are “Grandma and Grandpa” to their descendants. My mother-in-law insisted upon “Woogie.” We know not whence it came … father-in-law is “Geep,” for G.P., for grandpere. No one in the family is of French descent.

  6. You should make something for your grandma with the machine. Also maybe german chocolate cake or coconut shrimp lol would help you use up the coconut

  7. That machine is future-tastic. If you give it a name, I vote for Jetson.

    My dad’s parents died before I was born so they were “grandma-last-name” and “grandpa-last-name” which is kind of amusing since I called my mom’s parents Nana and Papa. We didn’t really need to distinguish by last name. I was suppose to call my mom’s dad Grandpa, my cousin already did. Apparently I spent an entire 45 minute drive to their house repeating “pa-pa” when I was a toddler. It stuck.

    My mom’s spice rack looks pretty similar, my husband’s Grandma too.

    I hope your Grandma settles into her new home. It’s hard to see those kinds of changes but the right level of care is important.

    • Oh, Jeston would be perfect!

      Haha—my kids called my MIL “Granmda First Name” until my sister-in-law had her kids got them to call her Gigi, which was a childhood nickname she doesn’t much like. Now, she’s firmly Gigi to everyone. This thrills her, as you may imagine.

  8. I don’t have a Rocketeer, but I have the less flamboyant Singer 401, which has many of the same features. It’s my main machine and I sew everything on it. I hope you enjoy this machine just as much as I do mine:)

  9. You got a Rocketeer! Great machine (and oh so cool looking)! It is one of the few vintage machines my machine repair guy recommends because “you can’t beat a cam system”. (My Wizard has internal cams.) Sad that your grandmother had to give it up because of her move but so glad it went to the perfect person who will use it! Enjoy the new-to-you machine!

  10. The 501a is a neat machine. When looking for the other parts of it (cams, etc.) …keep an eye out for the cover that goes on top, it’s notorious for the hinges to break and the top found ‘aside’, like in a drawer or box.

  11. What a lovely and of-its-era machine. It is indeed bittersweet but I like to think that your grandmother is pleased that her machine is going to someone who will love it and use it. I’m looking forward to hearing how it stitches.

  12. Such a cool looking machine!
    I know the recipe/cookie/thingy you mean – I think it’s just another name for chocolate dipped coconut macaroon. Try googling that!

    • Actually, my mom dug out the recipe for me! I’ll post it soon. 🙂 They’re not quite macaroons—they’re not baked—but similar. And dipped in chocolate. Yum. I may have to make some…

  13. My Singer Touch & Sew has similar gadgetry! Drop in bobbin, cams for stitches and the lifting throat plate. Maybe those were popular features during that era? Mine’s late 50s – early 60s.

  14. Tom

    Step away from the vintage sewing machine… its contagious!
    Note the crazy little flicker thing that helps controls the thread?


  15. There is a downloadable free manual for the Singer Slantomatic 500 series – aka Rocketeer – on the Sew Classic website–500a-sewing-machine-manual.aspx

    You might also inquire about the “lid”, or dust cover for the cam plates on the top of the machine. It has sketches of the cam stitches. Most sewers set it aside when they use the machine (and it gets lost.)

    Did you also notice that there is no belt? Another innovation – it’s a gear-driven machine.

    As you might have guessed, a Rocketeer is among my (blush) 17 vintage machines. It needs to go to the machine doctor, as it won’t maintain tension right now.

    Enjoy it for the fine machine it is, as well as for its personal family history!

    Good luck, MV

    • Thanks for the info on the manual! And about the cover plate—I thought it looked like something ought to go up there, I will see if I can track it down. I am enjoying it thoroughly already and I haven’t even got to the stitching part…

  16. Cool machine! I think it’s interesting to hear about how different people refer to their grandparents. I had “extras” so everyone (even the Greats) were just called Grandma Anne* or Grandpa Jack* (*fictional names) to make it easier for everyone to know who was being referenced. My hubby’s family uses the last names instead of the first names, probably because all of his greats were gone before he was born.

    • We were going for “grandma first name” (which makes the most sense to me) with our kids, but somehow the individual nick-names kept creeping in. Ah, well, they work. 🙂

  17. Hoosiermama

    Mysterious dial #2 (above the needle) regulates the upper thread tension. Hope dad finds the cams, because you’ll need them to zigzag, or do any stitch other than straight.

  18. I have really enjoyed looking through your blog. I came here to look at your treadle machine, but being fascinated by all vintage sewing machines I didn’t stop there. In this article about the Rocketeer you said, “And it has a drop in bobbin. I had no idea these went back to the early sixties.” Actually Singer introduced the horizontal rotary system with a drop in bobbin in their Model 66 which debuted around 1900! The Rocketeer takes a class 66 bobbin. Congratulations on this wonderful machine and informative blog.

    Slightly off topic, I love the names you use for yourself and your husband–Isis and Osiris. I’m listening to Mozart’s “O Isis und Osiris” as I type this.


  19. Zena

    A sewing machine with fins – how awesome is that?
    I’ve been going through a fair amount of coconut for magic bars – each batch uses 1 1/3c. If you’re interested, I’ve got the recipe on FB in my notes section.

  20. that is a great machine, I have 3 different versions of that “coffee and cream” mid-50’s Singer. including a Rocketeer but mine looks a bit different than yours. I think these are the best machines ever made. the drop in bobbin is the greatest (I can never get used to the front load bobbin when I have to sew on one of those machines.) And the beauty of these machines is that they have super punching power, so you can sew through denim or thick fabrics quite easily. A lot of the accessories are available on Ebay. They also make the best buttonholes, I always use mine for that. Hope Grandma adjusts to her new home.

  21. That machine is space-aged fantastic. I LOVE it. Totally my kind of design.

  22. If your interested; I have a great recipe for granola that has coconut in it! Just a thought. Also, check out this site she could tell you about your machine or where to find a book and cams possibly.
    Have fun!

  23. That is a very funky machine. I totally love it. I am sorry that your Grandma can’t use it anymore. Though I consider you lucky to have living grandparents. Neither me nor my DH have any, and I’d say we are probably similar ages. I hope you enjoy the machine!

  24. This makes me smile. My Grandma also sewed on one of those for a long time. She had an upgrade when I was small, so my mom had the Singer 500 and that’s what I used to learn to sew. I’ve since bought one out of nostalgia (my cousin has my Grandma’s old one). My son is learning to sew on it now.

  25. Cool machine! Buzz Lightyear is the perfect comparison 😄I understand your grandmother naming problems, both of mine were/are grandma too, same for grandpas! It can confuse people, not us though, because we know exactly who we’re talking about.

  26. It does look like a rocket! What a lovely gift. It’s too bad your gramma had to give it up. Maybe you can go visit her in the home and bring it so she can use it at times.

  27. Couldn’t resist from commenting on naming grandparents. I do think we got lucky here in Sweden with “mormor” (litt. Mothermother) and “farmor” (litt. Fathermother) with the accompanying morfar and farfar

  28. denise

    Pretty sure you have the 500 slantomatic also known as the rocketeer.
    Here is a link to threading that machine…
    and when you want to sew with a double needle on that machine… you do use two needles!

  29. Roberta

    So sad about your Grandma, but it looks like her machine went to someone who will appreciate it and use it to keep the tradition going for many years to come. The Rocketeer is a real prize and is a close relative of my 401 – which I inherited when my Mom passed away. I love that machine and I try to honor her memory when I sew, though I will never have her amazing sewing skills. Hope that by now you have the downloadable manual and the cams. That machine can do lots of beautiful stitches.

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