The Sew-ette …and Sew On and Sew Forth

This weekend I mis-spent yet another morning in the Sunday Antique Market in Market Harborough.

As I have mentioned before, sometimes one wanders around for hours, inspecting every stall in minute detail, but seeing nothing which whispers in your brain or shouts “Take me, take me” in a vaguely sexual but worryingly schizophrenic way if you attempt to walk away and have a cup of tea and a custard tart.

Sew-ette sewing machine 09.11.09

A Thing of Beauty

On Sunday, I walked through the doors, and the first thing I saw was a Thing of Beauty.  A 1950’s ‘Sew-ette’ children’s sewing machine.

I own three sewing machines already; a turn of the century table mounted treadle, a 1910 flower-enamelled, hand-operated Singer called Daisy (which I used for all my sewing needs until five years ago) and a brand new, Swiss-made, electric Elna machine, which has so many functions, that I can only assume that some of them are surgical.  I carried out three circumcisions before someone pointed out that the extra tool was a button-holer.

I saw it, I haggled, I bought it.  The Sew-ette is a mere 6″ long but is fully operational and can be used manually, via a miniature treadle or, most dangerously, with a simple on-off switch on the base.  I have no idea how it works, as it doesn’t appear to have anywhere to put a bobbin, but I’m sure I’ll work it out.  It is, after all, a children’s toy.  How difficult can it be?

This would never go on sale today, as the plunging needle would no doubt be considered a tiny-finger-mutilating-hazard.  And the upshot of not teaching children to use vital tools and respect the potential hazards of real life is that many grown people are no longer able to mend their clothes, turn up a hem, or run up a pair of curtains.  Or make a button hole.


Filed under Children, Sewing

13 responses to “The Sew-ette …and Sew On and Sew Forth

  1. Right. I’ve got a little pair of trousers you can sort out.

  2. It only causes trouble whenever I try to run up a frock or two.

  3. Theresa

    I’ve just won the exact same thing in an e-bay auction and I begin to suspect, the more I stare at the pictures, the more I begin to suspect that this is a chain stitch machine, which is a shame because I was hoping to actually use mine for sewing things besides doll clothes. The one I got was marked ont eh box as not being a toy machine, but I believe the manufacturer may have been a little loose with the truth there…

    Have you gotten it to sew for you? When mine comes – hopefully by middle of next week, I’ll let you know what I end up able to make it do…

    • wartimehousewife

      Welcome Theresa! I haven’t had time to play with it yet and I was going to scout around and see if I could get hold of some instructions. I would be really grateful if you could let me know how you get on because, as I mentioned in the item, I can’t work out how it sews without a bobbin. It was definitely designed for children to do sewing with, but they were perhaps covering their backsides by saying “This is not a toy”. Please do let me know how you get on.

      • hi, i bought the exact machine for my daughter (she is 7) and she is getting majorly frustrated because the thread comes loose after sewing!! how does the thread stay in? the stitch is beautiful.. but comes loose.. have you gotten yours to work??

      • wartimehousewife

        Welcome Vivian! As yet I haven’t had time to test it out and I really must as everyone keeps asking. I will try it in the next few days and then let you know. It must work or they wouldn’t have sold so many. I’ll get back to you.

  4. thecraftwitch

    This machine rings a bell.
    I’m sure either myself or my sister had one of these many years ago.
    I’m also sure that the machine or at least the stitching, as Vivian says, kept coming undone, but as I said it was long ago.
    I do remember that the machine did cause a lot of aggravation and was put away. I have no idea what happened to it.
    I don’t think you will get much out of it.
    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but if you do manage to get it to work please let me know.
    In the mean time I will ask my sister what she remembers about the one we had.

  5. Pon Tiki

    Hi all
    I’ve been fixing a few of these little chain stitch machines this week and I’ve grown quite fond of them.
    The first one I worked on was an 1876 Willcox and Gibb machine.
    This is the great grandmother of these kids machines, but is a real sewing machine.
    Then I worked on the Singer “Sew Handy” Model 20 (kids machine).
    The trick to these little machines is to turn the hand wheel “Clockwise” to sew and when finished pull some slack thread out, between the tension disc and the needle, then gently pull the fabric away while turning the hand wheel “Counter clockwise” to release the hook.
    You will probably have to adjust the tension as well so experiment and you will find it pretty simple.

    • wartimehousewife

      Welcome Pon Tiki: Thanks so much for this – we have all be wracking our brains as to how it works. As soon as I get a free moment, I’ll try it out. I couldn’t conceive that a manufacturer would sell so many of these if they didn’t work.

  6. BarbaraSue Waldrip

    Did you get it to work?
    And I’d like to know what needles do I use in the Sew Ette machine?
    The hand crank does work and the shaft for the needle does go up and down.

    • wartimehousewife

      Welcome Barbara Sue – The Sew-ette does take a standard needle. I haven’t had time to experiment with it as yet, but Pon Tiki has commented below with instructions on how to work it. It does seem to only do a chain stitch as far as I can see, but try Pon Tiki’s method and let me know how you get on.

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