05 April 2012

I Got All Dirty Today

As I've said before, I can't help myself. I pore over Craigslist at least once a day looking at sewing machines. Mid-20th Century or earlier. Shiny. Heavy. Mostly black. I've only bought 2, my 1953 Singer 15-91 and my 1901 Singer 27 Treadle, for a total investment still under $100, and none in the past 9 months. Clearly, I'm due. So to induce labor--that is, to make myself work on grading a pile of student papers--I promised me I could buy a new old machine when I was dome.

I'm waiting for a Craigslist poster to get back to me about this Elna Supermatic, which supposedly has all its parts but no price listed:

Source: Craigslist

Yummy, right? But in the meantime I thought I'd check out Larry's Levis and Collectibles on Lankershim Boulevard here in North Hollywood.

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Source: Larry's Levis

Larry's was formerly the site of J.S. Kahn Sewing Machines. When Mr Kahn died Larry moved into his space and acquired his inventory of over 800 sewing machines in various states of disrepair.

Source: Larry's Levis
Source: Larry's Levis

Hundreds of the more plausible machines have been reconditioned and sold, but hundreds of others remain, covered in decades of dust. Some have post-it notes on them saying things like "Needs Help" and "Might work", indicating that Larry et al. have looked them over, but some still have old J.S. Kahn work orders on them. Judging from the photo above, which I swiped from Larry's facebook page, J.S. Kahn's inventory included many more old Singers than are there today. I suppose there is more demand for Singers among collectors (and movie set dressers) and they are easier to resurrect. The black Singers left on the shelves were a sad lot, apparently having served as organ donors for more promising machines. Not that their sacrifices made them so different from the Elnas and Brothers and Kenmores around them, however; apparently Larry's standard procedure was to strip each machine of any parts that might be sold separately--power cords, cams, feet, bobbins, etc., and then to throw those orphaned parts into boxes labeled "accessories" which are now stacked against a back wall.

So actually buying a J.S. Kahn machine from Larry's Levis (which I did not do today) may involve paying separately for machine head, case, power cord and foot pedal, bobbins, feet and stitch cams, provided they can be coaxed out of their various hiding places around the store. But shopping there was a dusty and dirty delight.


  1. There is just something about all that heavy, shiny, solid metal sewing power that's pretty impossible to resist..

  2. Looks like you had fun!

    I've nominated you for an award!