Sewing Is One of Those Skills Everyone Should Know

Master these stitches and start practicing on different fabrics. Make sure your thread tension is just right!

Sewing machines are a must-have. Like my Brother sewing machine straight out of 1950, they last a lifetime. Anyway, once you master this machine you can start making anything from clothing, to kit and packs.

While many families gave up on sewing at some point in the twentieth century, my mother has stubbornly continued to sew and mend, and made certain to teach me how.

I have used many sewing machines, both new and antique, and I have to agree with my mother’s preference for Singer machines. Other antique machines usually feel clunky in their operation. Modern machines feel flimsy, and are simply not as reliable.

So, from experience, the old Singer sewing machines, the ones finished in Japan black, are the best. Many were conversions to electric, and retain the ability to be run manually. A few are set up to be either electric or treadle.

The Model 66 was an exceptional full-size machine. It was meant for fabric, but was used for fine leather work industrially.

The Model 99 was a 3/4 size machine that was popular both at homes and in sweatshops a century ago.

Models 66 and 99 can often be found in good condition, only needing a cleaning and lubrication, for under $100.

Models 221 and 222 were very small machines that remain so popular that they are almost impossible to find below $200. They’re an extremely capable machine in a compact and portable package. The difference between them is that the 222 has a freearm to sewing sleeves and cuffs.

Singer had a trade-in arrangement through the 1960s, and many of the older manual machines were converted to electric and re-sold inexpensively. Electric or electrified Singer machines have two common forms of speed control. Pedal control is natural to anybody who drives. The alternative, a paddle that sits below the table and you press your thigh against, seems to be based off of how you work the swells on an organ. It’s not terrible to learn, but isn’t as immediately understandable to most people as foot control.

These machines do only one stitch, the lock stitch, unlike later machines, but they do that stitch very well and very reliably. This is the most common stitch you’ll need. Even if you have a fancy modern machine, one of these old Singers can take a huge amount of work off the fancy (and more easily worn out) machine. Or you can do your specialty stitching by hand, as was common when these machines first came out.

Be careful with older models or other models. Earlier sewing machines sewed with a chain stitch. Unlike a locking stitch, breaking one link in a chain stitch can see the whole seam come undone.

This is useful when tinkering or prototyping something, when you might need to change the position of the seam frequently, and these early machines have found their niche in such operations. They are also useful for sewing up bags that will need to be reopened.

Regularly lubricated, antique sewing machines last forever. Belts are rubber today, but were leather 130 years ago. Other than the belt and tire, everything is metal.

Bought this vintage sewing machine and refurbished it for 60$. I have already made a woobie blanket and stuff sack. Sleeping bag and organizational sacks are coming up next. Learning to make your own gear/clothing and having the ability to mend your clothing and gear is truly an essential life-long skill for any prepper/ woodsman.