• Last modified 877 days ago (Jan. 17, 2019)


"Redeye" functional and decorative

Antique sewing machines are treasures for sisters

Staff writer

There was a time when foot pedal sewing machines were all the rage; but no more.

Since these machines are what sisters Carol Riggs and Paula Perry of Marion’s Sew What Quilt Shop know from childhood, the oldies but goodies have a special place in their hearts and store.

The pair of Hillsboro residents own 17 machines — seven of them antiques. Despite the age of some, all the machines remain well cared for, and some are still functional.

“These old machines, people don’t want them anymore,” Riggs’ said. “They want the newfangled ones with all the gadgets.”

While the shop has newer machines, the sisters like the sturdy, yet lighter weight nature of older machines.

Among the collection is a Singer Redeye from the 1920s, which took its name from an eye-shaped decal at its base.

The ornate designs provided a splash of color in the homes of residents from the ’20s, Perry said.

“Think about somebody out here in the middle of Kansas,” she said. “It was generic and utilitarian. Something like this would have been an added bonus as a decoration.”

The machine, as with several at the shop, used a foot treadle to create power, though it is not set up for sewing. Working with the Redeye and her mother’s other machines was what instilled Perry with a love for the craft.

“I always wanted a treadle machine because that was what we learned on,” she said.

The 99K was Riggs’ first antique machine, which she found second hand.

“It was sitting in a thrift shop for under $10,” she said. “It broke my heart because it said no foot pedal.”

Those words were difficult to read because it was incorrectly labeled, Riggs said. Instead of a foot pedal, the machine operates with a knee bar attached to a pin at the base, which was missing.

An advantage now is that serial numbers can be searched online through the International Sewing Machine Collectors’ Society to find out about the machine’s history.

“The serial number says where it was made, what year it was made, that kind of stuff,” Perry said.

Using the serial number of the Singer machine located at the front of the shop, a model 15, it was one of 132,779 machines of that model made in 1950.

A convenience of having so many is there is a machine for every situation, Perry said.

“They’re for different applications,” she said. “If I want to take it with me when I go to a relative’s house, or go on a retreat, I have a smaller one.”

Last modified Jan. 17, 2019