Meeting Betty!

Sometimes a project just walks into your life. Or rather, you drive your Subaru Forester down the road a bit and load it into the back of the vehicle!

I have been wanting a 3rd vintage sewing machine table in my sewing room. (Three?? She wants three?)

My main sewing table, occupied by Miss Peacock, my Bernina 480 SE, is an old mahogany veer sewing table with lots of drawers and top space. I found this for $50 in the late 70’s (and that was a significant investment at the time) in a St. Vincent DePaul second hand store in Spokane, WA. Miss Peacock is now primary for all my applique work.

Sewing table number two was found in a neighbor’s front yard sale around 2004. It is a Singer #42 Art Deco style table (VERY heavy) also in mahogany veener, which I adore. Originally it held a vintage 201 model singer which has been discarded. My Babylock Serger (her name is Coco) currently sits atop this table.

But I also would like to have a table for Tula Pink, my Bernina 350 SE, so that she is ready for action.

Why not purchase a new table? Hmm, they are very expensive ($1,000-$3,000) and they are not beautiful works of wood art. Yes, I have a bias for a vintage sewing table. Plus, they can be found quite cheaply.

Sometimes they are free, which is what has happened in this case. I was perusing the “Buy Nothing” listings in my community when a beautiful, if grimy, old Singer and table pops up and it’s free if I can pick up within a couple hours.

So there we were, loading an old machine in a cabinet into the Forrester. After some research, I discover that she is a Singer 15-88 treadle converted into an electric. The cabinet is walnut, and the machine was made in 1948. There is a temptation to convert it back to a treadle. Or maybe into a hand crank. (The Singer 15-89 was the same machine with a hand crank.) Time will tell.

Here she is! The newest addition to my sewing machine family.

The drawers are empty. There are no accessories or attachments with her. Just the straight stitch foot and a bobbin in the bobbin case. (And not the right bobbin!)

In the meantime, we have discovered that the motor sounds fine and the light works. It needs cleaning and a new belt and bobbin winder donut. These parts on now ordered.

I am amazed at how good she looks…the decals are in good shape, there is minimal rust and paint chipping and there is no dust or lint in the bobbin area (!!). Someone took care of her a long ago, but I am certain it hasn’t been run for about 60 years. The large spool of thread on the machines says 60 cents!

Betty needs a good cleaning!
Dusty, dirty and neglected.

My project is getting her cleaned up and (now that I have dismantled her) put back together! Thank good goodness for YouTube! Hubby will refinish the table top. The treadle assembly is missing.

The irony is that I have carefully off loaded my vintage machines, selling a couple and giving my mom’s 1952 Featherweight to my grand daughter. I still have a Bernina 730 Record, made in 1964, that I use occasionally. Bernie is the back up machine for Tula, who is the back up for Miss Peacock. They all have their strengths. And yes, experience had showed me that I need 2 back ups because bad things happen to good machines on occasion and I MUST have a machine I can use at all times.

No, I have never taken a machine apart before. But she was a freebee, and the Singer 15 was built to be worked on by the owner. And parts are readily available as the 15 and its variations were made for 100 years!

Day 1: The machine (I am now calling her Betty) is partially dismantled. I haven’t taken the bobbin assembly off yet, but everything else is off.

Parts awaiting cleaning! And reassembly! That’s the bobbin assembly in the orange tray.

The machine stitch length area awaiting cleaning and reassembly.

Hubby is helping with cleaning many of the bits and pieces while I oil everywhere…oil ports, all moving joints, undercarriage, and everywhere on top of her. WD40 is being used on removed metal parts ONLY. Sewing machine oil is for the cleaning on all painted areas of the machine.

By the end of the day, I have the stitch selector reassembled and the bobbin assembly reassembled. I can fit the bobbin in the bobbin assembly, so I am taking this as a good sign.

The first area cleaned and reassembled! Before cleaning, I did not know that were numbers for stitch length selection. And yes, she has a reverse function!

Bobbin assembly cleaned and reassembled.
Face plate cleaned and reinstalled.
Before and after of the bobbin thread tension assembly. Decades of grimy dry oil removed.

Day 2: The Bobbin winding assembly is now off the machine! Fortunately this part changed little over the life of the Singer 15 and their are diagrams and good videos available to help me.

A clean machine is a happy machine! I hope you all are keeping your machines in good working order and oiling and changing your needles frequently.



  1. Hi, you never fail to amaze me with what you get up to, Betty most likely will remain with you especially if you get it running good. You have done a great job on it so far I wait any updates 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do so like reading your blogs Lennea they are all ways interesting and humorous, loved learning about Betty, it made me smile as last year I did the very same thing, but I grew up on a singer treadle, I even remember rocking the treadle with my hands when my mum was sewing LOL. I must have been may be 4 years old .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Machines carry a lot of memories for us! My mother used a Singer Featherweight, which I passed onto my grand daughter. Hoping to inspire a new generation as none of my daughters sew.


  3. Thank you! I am now re-seating the bobbin assembly LOL! But am enjoying every minute. Tom is working on the motor. Whether we leave her electrified or convert back to a treadle, or perhaps a hand wheel remains to be seen. I have never sewed on a treadle, but I’m willing!


  4. Thanks Lennea. I have enjoys following you as you worked on Betty. I have the exact same machine and cabinet but I had to pay for mine – $15. You have inspired me to clean and get it running over the winter.

    Liked by 1 person

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