"Home at Last!"

Yesterday my elder sister Sarah, her husband (Mike), and their two little children (Nathan [5] and Libby [almost 3]) came to visit because it was Mum's birthday last Thursday. They would have come on Thursday but Sarah had a bad cold. Anyway, they also brought my Mum's old SINGER 533 sewing machine that she bought in 1976 (when Sarah was about 1 and a half). It's home at last!

It has been up in Sarah's attic for who knows how long getting rusty and changing colour slightly. My first impression after noticing its being rather dirty is that it is very heavy. I could lift it, but I was nearly straining myself. No wonder my Brother XR6600 is considered lightweight!

Something else I noticed is the Singer Red "S" logo. It's not like the one they use now. Look at the picture: In the red S there is a silhouette of a woman sewing. The logo looks big in the photo but it's really only about 12mm (nearly 1/2 ") tall.

Once I scratched the rust off with foil I switched the machine on. It is noisy. Also, having a front-mounted tension assembly, every time I remove the work I have to turn the tension to 0 (unless I'm missing something) because the tension does not automatically disengage like it does on our modern sewing machines.

This machine was quite modern when Mum bought it for £200 (on a payment plan) in 1976. But now even the most basic machines do more and cost less. Imagine what sewing machines will be like 36 years from now - what will they do that people will take for granted? Do you know this machine didn't even come in a box?! The man just delivered it in its snap-on case!

The presser feet are screw-on so Mum didn't change them very often. The zipper foot has gone missing now so there is only the standard presser foot. Even when Mum bought the 533 it didn't come with the special purpose presser foot or the Blind-hem guide that are in the manual. I guess that must be the difference between British machines and American ones - the American ones come with more stuff. Humph.

The machine has (I count) six stitches and no automatic buttonhole. The stitches are:

  • straight stitch,
  • zigzag stitch,
  • blind-hem stitch,
  • straight stretch stitch,
  • ric-rac stitch (stretch zigzag),
  • and slant over-edge stitch. 

The latter three can only be used when the machine is set on Flexi-stitch as it is called. (I found the manual at Singer's US website). This is like the S.S. setting on a lot of modern machines. (By the way, what does S.S. stand for? Satin Stitch? Special Stitch? Stretch Stitch?)

Technically you can make buttonholes on this machine but it takes some practice. Mum just made hers by hand. She was taught how to in school. After all, the machines they taught on in those days were hand-crank Singers.

Interesting things about the Singer 533

It has a top-loading bobbin but the bobbin is flatter than my other bobbins. The free-arm is smaller than on both the Toyota and my Brother XR6600, which is better for cuffs and children's armscyes.

It may be because it has been standing redundant for a long time, but the stitch length dial is a little hard to turn and the reverse stitch button takes some getting used to.

Something this machine has that neither of my machines have is a presser foot pressure dial. When you turn it all the way down, it says "D" for darning.

Something that is neat about this machine is that it is "Made in Great Britain" (it says so on the back). Doesn't the gold writing look nice? Try finding a sewing machine (or any machine) nowadays that is made in Great Britain!

There is lots of room to the right of the needle - about 7 3/8"

The bobbin winder has a neat knob to move the bobbin over. It's much easier than having to push the bobbin over. I hope they bring this feature back. : )

Isn't the presser foot small?

I'm not sure how well you can see in the photo, but the seam allowances are in eighths of an inch!

That's about all I've got to say about the machine at the moment. What do you think? Do you have one? Please share your comments below. : )

Until next time, Happy Sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner Haberdashery, 41 Market Place, Hornsea, East Yorkshire, HU18 1AP, Great Britain.

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