I’ve never really understood the joy and enthusiasm some of you have for old sewing machines – you take pics and write posts extolling the virtues of dusty, creaky, black and gold machines and think they’re brilliant. You add them to your armoury and I’ve really no idea if you ever actually use them or why on earth you would buy another machine when you have a fully functioning one already.
I’ll be honest, at best I merely scan such posts and mostly I just skip them: until now…..
My mother LOVES auctions; real live auctions not sterilised eBay, but the type held in wood-clad, stale-cigarette smoke and furniture polish aromatic warehouses with real live characters and stuff you can touch and smell and see before you bid. We’re not talking Sotherby’s or Christie’s here but mainly local house clearances and bankruptcy sales. There’s not a week goes by that she’s not on the phone asking if there’s anything I need. Actually, there’s nothing I need, I really and truly have everything and very much more but I try to keep my Mother happy so I say something like a “Ming dynasty blue and white serving dish”, or “Clarice Clef tea pot” or “Louis XIV footstool”, knowing fine well that these items will never appear in a local auction house but at least it gives her something to look for.
This week’s phone call asked if I wanted another sewing machine as there was one was listed in the local auction house catalogue. It’s lovely that she supports my hobby and wants to help but I don’t have the space nor the inclination for more stuff.
“Thanks, Mummy but no thanks. I have a machine and it works perfectly well. Why would I want another?”
“Well, you just might.”
“What kind is it?”
“Don’t know, it’s just listed as a Frister and Rossman.”
I left the option open……
Long story short I am now the very proud owner of a vintage Frister and Rossman 45 model II. A bit Internet research places said machine circa 1970. The best bit is that it’s heavy duty, manually operated and I’m guessing will sew through at least three layers of sheet metal if I want it to. And I now completely understand the desire for vintage machines.
It has that lovely ‘beat up’ look; a bit of paint chipped off, a few knocks and dents but in my eyes that only adds to its ugly beauty. Made of real wood and metal, it weighs about seven tonnes and I either need to do more arm exercises at the gym or enlist assistance to lift it onto the table.
My Father bought a new bulb – thank you dad! It has the grand stitching repertoire of forwards, backwards and zigzag. It also came with a little bundle of bobbins, tools, oil, brush and feet.
Isn’t wood lovely? I’ve found an instruction manual online – thank you whoever put that up.
A bit of online research discovered that Frister and Rossman are (were) a German company and with a bit of guessing, this machine heralds from around 1970. Nothing like German engineering – best in the world and will last forever.
There are Flash Gordon knobs and levers so that alone makes it brilliant – no computer beeps and bloops just clunky operator choices and no Error messages if you forget to lower the presser foot – it lets you make mistakes!
So what’s the point in having such a basic workhorse of a machine?
Well, a few years ago (exactly four) I started a pair of leather trousers. I had to abandon them because my perfectly functioning Janome TXL607 would not sew through the layers – skipped stitches and no stitching at all in some places. In sheer frustration I started glueing the pieces together which is never a good idea for clothes. The half completed legs were rolled up (never fold leather), stuffed in a plastic bag and have lain at the bottom of the fabric box for four years. However, with that external motor, no computer telling me that I can’t do it and a new leather needle inserted I might just get to finish them.
Would you believe it? An actual pair of leather trousers!
As a pair of leather jeans they’re really really bad: as my first pair of leather jeans they’re brilliant!
What’s wrong? A lot.
Back pockets were glued in place years ago and are now double stitched to compensate for crappy modern sewing machine efforts.They’re also positioned too low.
Mismatched back yokes (there’s six layers of leather at that join).
Twist in left leg inside seam???? And the inside finish is shameful.
A completed pair of five pocket jeans, a working fly zip…
…..and I can get into them.
I’m tempted to call these ‘a muslin’ but as they’re made from leather it is hardly an appropriate term – let’s call them a ‘learning’ experience – both material and machine.
Best way to press leather is to wear it; any wrinkles or creases tend to work themselves out with body heat and natural stretching. I’m also assured that with enough wear, the leather trousers will take on your shape for good or ill.
You only get once chance to sew leather as those needle / pin holes are there forever.
And …. my mother is now on the look out at the auctions for a sturdy table on which to place my new vintage sewing machine and I’m on the look out for more hides!