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Bizarre High-Powered Sewing Machines

Posted by James Wolfensberger on

Vintage sewing machine (VSM) enthusiasts are no strangers to the impressive capabilities of the all-metal models from bygone decades. Relying on the heft, durability, and precision of metal gears, linkages, and rods, vintage machines tend to deliver superior power to the business end of a sewing machine: the needle bar.

Even the coveted Singer 221/222 Featherweight, whose slight motor is a mere .4 amps, provides noteworthy consistency of power and flawless straight stitches when properly tuned. Many vintage motors of no more than 1.5 amps are known to push a needle through heavy denim seams. Meanwhile, the "potted motor" models like the Singer 201 are favorites among those who have found they can push these "direct drive" beasts well beyond sewing fabric - some people sew leather goods with them.

With all that said, common sense dictates that when it comes to sewing power for the home, enough will be enough. Nonetheless, there are those determined to push some of the finest machinery ever manufactured to extreme lengths.

These examples may be fascinating, or they might make you cringe.

Extreme Speed Hand Crank

This gentleman found that his mother had abandoned a hand crank machine that was more than 80 years old. You can see from the above photograph that the machine appears nearly flawless, and the fellow even points out that it operates just fine. Nonetheless, he straps a washing machine motor to the Singer in order to "turn it up until something pops." During his experiment, the man does indeed bother to run some stitches at very high speed. Don't try this at home unless you're desperately trying to finish your sewing projects in time for the holidays.

Gas Powered Toy

This video elicits a heavy sigh and a loud "Why?!?" The offending mechanic did a beautiful job attaching a shiny pulley wheel to a Singer model 20 hand crank (a child's working toy sewing machine), then strangely attached a sputtering gas motor to the assembly in order to accomplish... what?

A Ford V8 Engine

The resourceful gentleman in this video suggests that his gas-powered rig should quell claims that sewing isn't macho. Ultimately the setup is revealed as even more absurd than expected, due to the fact that the sewing he accomplishes requires nothing more than a little palm-sized motor, a hand crank, or even a child's toy sewing machine. Instead, this guy uses a Ford V8 engine to legitimately sew at a normal speed on a mid-century all-metal beauty. Let's all scratch our heads together and wish we had this kind of time.

Variable Speed Controller

Our previous modified machines were created by men and their apparently incessant desire for power, power, power. Well, leave it to a woman to apply a more practical modification to a vintage sewing machine: a variable speed control. Oh. Wait a minute. Sewing machines already have that. Anyhoo... here's another way to make your sewing machine operate at variable speeds without the typical foot controller.

Now What?

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  • That first guy was pretty painful to watch! Such a pretty machine, and I doubt he oiled it first….

    Barbara Showell on

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