Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mystery Solved : Vintage Sewing Machine Identified as National VB2

Thanks to the great people at The International Sewing Machine Collectors Society (ISMACs) who helped me to identify my "new" purchase as a "National VB 2." It was probably made between 1890 and 1910. Serial Number 1287755.

Apparently, it's a "knock-off" of a Singer Vibrating Shuttle 2 (later Model 27). National made these "badge" machines as generics that other companies branded as their own (like Sears, Montgomery Ward, local hardware stores, etc.). That's why so many machines tend to look alike, but have different names across the top.

I had originally thought I would NOT try using this vintage machine for any actual sewing projects, but with the encouragement of several ISMACs enthusiasts, I am planning to clean it up, get a few missing parts, and treadle away on some real projects (yet to be determined).

I am discovering that there is a whole world out there of treadlers who prefer the antique sewing machines to modern day sewing machines. One woman, Damascus Annie, has a business machine-quilting on exclusively treadle machines. Her clientele want an authentic antique look to their quilts. You can see her wonderful studio with the various machines and learn more about treadles here. There are treadle machines that allow for free-motion stitching--and here I thought this was a new innovation!

This has opened up a whole new world to me. The research is also fun, interesting and challenging--kind of like a treasure hunt. One clue leads to the next ... I'm looking forward to identifying and possibly collecting a few more treadles, restoring them and using them. Woo-hoo! Way to get off the power grid!

Singer has a good program to identify and age their old machines. You can call their 1-800-number, provide a serial number, and they can tell you the model, when and where it was made. Singer also has a website for checking serial numbers. Even White offers this service (to some degree). There is also a woman collecting White serial numbers to document some of the holes in the company's manufacturing record.

But how do you research a machine from a company that went out of business in 1957 (like National did)? Try some of the following sources :

ISMACs - International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society
They offer a listserv where you can describe what you've got, and the knowledgeable members will offer their best guess as to what it is.

Needlebar - Another group of people interested in researching the history of old-timey sewing machines. The offer many pictures to help you identify what you might have.

TreadleOn - Is a wonderfully informative website and society that actually promotes the use of antique treadle sewing machines, as opposed to just collecting them for decoration

Book : Charles Law's Encyclopedia of Antique Sewing Machines
This can be very useful if you can find a copy, or someone who does own it. This week, only 1 copy was available on Amazon used Books for $200. Only a handful of libraries seem to carry it as well, one of them being The Library of Congress--and I'm not sure how willing they are to share it. Seems like this type of book would be considered non-circulating reference material.

1 comment:

Phil said...

Great find and good work getting the information.

I found one for a few dollars of these vibrating shuttle machines with shuttle housing, bobbin and thread although no needle. so after a brief clean and a blind try at threading, I found the modern leather needle shaft to be 1-2 mm shorter I suppose than the original as the shuttle kept missing the thread loop until the needle reach was lengthened. It now does work surprisingly well. I really did not know anything about this before I got it. Love the shuttle system. Something different.