I happily did chores to earn extra money and it didn't take much for me to talk Grandma into taking me shopping for supplies. Of course, we already had a supply of reclaimed buttons in the Roger's syrup can and large safety pins holding various lengths of zippers salvaged from beyond-repair pants. My 'Barbie' had some of the coolest designer clothes on the block! Worn out jeans were always available for pretty much anything else I wanted to sew ~ pencil cases, purses and tote bags were frequent requests from family, friends & neighbours.
Bit of background history ~ Grandpa taught me how to thread a needle, knot the thread and sew on a button. Grandma taught me to embroider basic stitches on stamped patterns. I learned to sew on my grandparents' treadle machine, operating the foot pedal & helping "steer" the fabric. By the time I started grade school, I knew my way around that old Singer quite well. I was fun to thread it and I even knew which parts needed to be cleaned & oiled =)
Jump ahead a couple of years ~ Mom bought her machine, barely used, in 1973, as far as we were able to establish. Not sure who was more excited ~ Mom because she had her own machine and it was darn fancy for it's time with all the extra stitches, presser feet, fancy needles and stuff ~ or me because I now had access to a sewing machine at all times, 7 steps down the stairs, with fancy stitches, neat presser feet and cool double needles!!
Several years, and a few models of sewing machines, later ~ Mom decided her machine was collecting dust and asked if I would like to have it... Heck, Yes!! Home it came with me to join my collection... an early fully-computerized Bernina, a digital embroidery machine, Grandma's inherited mid-70s school room model Singer and a mechanical serger.
We've spent numerous hours scouring the internet for information about Mom's machine. It is without a doubt vintage as it's been in our family for at least 40 years. The biggest issue is that it isn't a popular name brand, such as Singer or Bernina. We were unable to establish any facts regarding manufacturer, retail price, compatibility with other models' parts (i.e. presser feet, needles, belts), how many were produced/distributed and so on. The original cabinet, owner's manual (printed in Japan/no copyright date) and accessories in the original box show their age but are still in very good condition. As for today's value, being a mass-produced item, these Japanese-made models tend to be on the lower price point end, maybe worth $100 in running order, to a collector.
Here's what we have been able to find out for sure:
~ She's obviously a Model #555
~ The body was made in Japan, established by the manufacturer stamp of J-A/3. We found some very useful information on this blog about vintage sewing machines. The motor has a name plate from International Factory Sales Service Limited, Vancouver, Canada (Canadian Standards Approved). No business history can be found other than this name is now an auto plate glass installer. The actual serial number plate comes up as a blank in all research we've done.
~ Her "badged" name is "International". Following WWII, a large number of sewing machines were manufactured in Japan and subsequently "badged" with a US or Canadian retailer's name to be sold as their brand (Sears Kenmore, for example). Over 5000 "badged brands" were produced by at least 15 different factories. The manufacturers' records are non-existent.
The chances of finding even one machine exactly like her... well, odds are probably better for winning a lottery prize or possibly finding that proverbial needle in the haystack! I have joined the Yahoo! group for collectors of vintage Japanese sewing machines... on the off-chance... maybe one day, somebody, somewhere... =)
Here she is, clean & shiny, ready for a test drive to see what new pieces/parts she may require to bring her back to her working glory!!
Do you have something true vintage that's been passed to you from a family member? We'd love for you to share it with us in the comments below.
Keep well!! Happy treasure hunting!!
...We'll see you next week, here, In The Parlour =)
*photos by/property of ccthompson.