Tag Archives: National Sewing Machine Company

Concordance/Discordance

That Damn Treadle

Y’know how when forensic specialists are matching finger-prints (or dental records), and they go through the whorls (and fillings) and things looking for points of concordance and discordance between the different images? No? Obviously you should’ve paid more attention in your Forensic Anthropology classes… Well, this  is what’ I’ve been doing.

I know all y’all are just as obsessed as I am about my new treadle. 😉 No? Well, I imagine I’ll have an actual sewing post up one of these days. I still haven’t actually had the chance to work on the treadle; my Mom unexpectedly got a full-time contract (YAY, MOM!) and then Thanksgiving happened, which involved four turkeys, four days, and absolutely no energy for anything but digesting. In the meantime, I spent some quality time hunting down old Eaton’s catalogues, of which there is a surprising abundance on teh marvelous internets. Thank you, internets. Also, Library and Archives Canada and Archive.org. You rock my world. Anyway, I think I have located my machine!

I think I’ll pause here to allow you to imagine the scene as my perplexed family got to witness the peculiar dance of the exultant researcher.

My machine appears to match a model shown in the 1915/16 Winter catalogue through the 1917 spring/summer catalogue (but not in the 1917/18 winter catalogue). Woot! I’m not sure about before 1915 as there’s a gap in the archives before that until 1908, at which point the models are distinctly different.

ZOMG there it is! Also, source.

Yes, that appears to be my machine.

Points of concordance:

  • Cabinet. Oh yes, this took some hunting. I had started off looking in 20s catalogues because I thought the plain, almost masculine style of the woodwork looked newer, although most twenties machines seem to have more art-nouveau kind of decals. But it’s really distinctive both in its plain-ness, the six drawers, and the shape of the bits on either side of the drawers.
  • The machine. Even though the catalogue copy describes this machine as the “Seamstress”, if you click on the illustration to see the full-size image, the machine says “Improved Seamstress”. Every detail of the tension, threading, stitch-length screw, and even decals are pretty much spot on, allowing for a small amount of artistic licence (and a LOT of crud and wear on my machine…)

Compare.

Points of discordance:

Ok, really there’s only the foot pedal, which is distinctly different, and, frankly, doesn’t look like any of the Eaton’s foot-pedals I’ve looked at in the last few days. Which is a lot. It makes me wonder if that part might’ve been replaced, or if it just happened to be a different factory lot from the illustration.

Oh, yeah, along the edge of the board on the illustration, just in front of the sewing machine, you can see a series of regular ticks. It’s actually a measuring-tape decaled onto the surface of the wood. It’s pretty beaten up on my machine, but parts of it are still visible.

Oh, and I finished the Kwik Sew underwear. I’ll tell you all about it next time… 😉

EDIT: A bit more digging turned up a Fall/Winter 1913/14 catalogue, which has a six-drawer model that is different from mine. So that’s an upper age limit. One interesting detail: most of the machines in the 1913/14 catalogue have a foot pedal identical to the one on my machine (but different from the one in the later catalogues). So maybe my machine is an earlier version of its model, fitted with the older pedal style—or maybe it was just some variant from the factory. Anyway, at this point there’s only three catalogues “missing”, Spring/Summer 1914, Fall/Winter 1914/15, and Spring/Summer 1915. And, frankly, a date to within a year or two seems like pretty good accuracy considering a few days ago I wasn’t even positive about decade. So I’m still pretty satisfied, although of course there’s one or two more avenues I could pursue…

EDIT #2: I found the serial number, underneath the slide plate of the shuttle compartment. 2330993. Not sure if there’s anywhere I can look this up to get a date or location of manufacture, but that’s what it is. There’s also a faint letter “A” above it on the left.

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A match made in hell

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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Doodads

The Army Machine

I recently had the opportunity to show off my Army Machine (aka the Domestic Special) to my mother. This is kind of like putting together chocolate and peanut butter. My mom may not exactly get my sewing obsession (though she enables it just fine), but antiques of any kind are her bag, baby. She’s the first person (other than possibly Tyo) I’ve gotten to show that machine to who I don’t suspect is secretly thinking “And you bought this why?”

A mysterious little box.

And then she pulled out a little antique tin box she bought years and years and years (and years ago), mostly because she thought it was exquisite. I have vague memories of it kicking around when I was a kid, and maybe even of opening it from time to time, but the contents not ever making much sense.

Contents.

Well, this time they make sense.

Lots and lots of sense.

It’s a complete, exquisite set of sewing-machine attachments, for a machine with a top-clamping presser foot.

Like my Domestic.

Tragically (or perhaps inevitably) the feet don’t quite fit—the height is right but the distance between the clamp and the needle isn’t, and while you can fudge by not inserting them all the way, I’m not sure they’d be stable enough to actually sew with. I’ll probably try at some point, because I’m crazy like that, but I didn’t today.

Have you ever seen such an insane selection of rolled hem feet? I wonder what that big ball in the middle of each is like to hem around.

Ruffler foot.

This is the ruffler. It’s simpler than the others I’ve seen—there’s no control for gathering on alternate stitches, so it only does ruffling, not pleats. I initially thought it might be broken, it’s so stripped down, but some wiggling and adjustment of the main screw (which controls how much of the fabric is shoved forward) and it works, although it’s badly in need of oiling and de-rusting before it goes anywhere near an actual garment.

Tucker foot

I think this is the tucker foot. I think this based on a repro antique Sears catalogue my mom has that figures a variety of sewing machine attachments, including a similar-looking “tucker foot”, but I really haven’t got a clue how it works. And my Handbook of Sewing Machine Attachments is in a box somewhere.

All the pieces bear a stamp: Pat. Oct. 13 96.

Since I’m pretty sure they don’t date to 1996, that would presumably be 1896. A bit older than even my mom thought the box was, frankly.

Random bits

There are a couple of other random bits in the bottom, bobbins for two different machines (one I think an old shuttle treadle), a plate that would have attached to the bed of the sewing machine for lapping seams and positioning lace and ribbons and the like, and that long thin thing that I have no idea at all about.

Although I didn’t recognize the name on the box, Eldredge Manufacturing Company, out of Illinois, one second’s worth of googling turned up this article about the Eldredge/National Sewing Machine company. Which, yes, was based in Belvidere, Illinois, in the period around 1896. And here’s an ad, albeit of rather older vintage, for the company’s machines. And the shuttle bobbin looks like it could well be for an Eldredge machine as well. I do kinda love the ISMACS site.

The machine might have looked something like this… (source)

Also, my messings and musings provoked my mother to comment that at this point I know rather more about sewing-machine attachments than she does. After I’d picked my jaw up off the floor, I had to demand what she was talking about—after all, it was her machine’s ruffler-foot that first got me started on this whole attachments obsession business.

Pfaff Ruffler Foot

People, apparently in the thirty-odd years my mom’s machine belonged to her before I pulled out the scariest foot in the attachment box and set about figuring out a) if it was a ruffler, and b) if I could figure out how it worked (the answer, by the way, was yes to both), my mom never knew what that foot was, never mind how you made it go. I had always assumed that if my bull-headed fumbling didn’t yield results, I would just ask her. I feel kind of like one of those Enlightenment mathematicians who assumed the calculus they were inventing had all been known to the ancient Greeks… Only I just got to talk with Pythagoras and he was all “WTF are you talking about, dude?”

Or, y’know, not. But anyway. Fun. I love it when something I didn’t know how to place before suddenly makes sense…

Now if only I could sew with them…

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