Howe Many Machines Do You Own?

July 31, 2011

If you want to feel better about your sewing machine collection, read on. Up until recently I owned 6 (but one’s a treadle that’s being used as an end table, so I’m not sure it counts). I recently acquired #7…with my husband’s blessing, and I can’t wait to share. We were wandering through an antique store in Fort Atkinson, WI when this machine caught my eye:

For many years I’ve been presenting a quilt lecture about my collection of antique quilts entitled “But I Still Love You”. In it I share some sewing machine history, including information on Elias Howe, the “inventor of the sewing machine” (there were other machines invented in other countries, but his was the most user friendly and marketable, so he’s credited with it). There is actually a plaque on the machine with a bust of Elias Howe and the words “Elias Howe Jr; Inventor and Maker; New York, USA”.

The machine has been mounted in a case with a glass front and a light inside so that the mechanism underneath can be viewed when the crank is turned.

The case has a plaque that reads: “Inventor: Elias Howe; Patent #4750 Granted 9-10-1846; circa 1865-67; Restored by Carmon M. Howe; 1991”. I was able to contact Mr. Howe and he told me he is not related to the inventor. He found the machine on the 3rd floor of an antique store in LaCrosse, WI with about an inch of dust on it. When he saw the name – he had to have it :-). He said it won’t run because the bobbin mechanism was missing. We had a lovely conversation and he told me to enjoy the machine. I am already.

 After a bit of web surfing I found a photo of the same model machine as mine and it is indeed from 1867!  I searched for more details about the machine and found very little. I did find a wealth of information about Elias Howe and am anxious to share it in future lectures.

So, anyone own more than 7 sewing machines???


  1. Great find! You have a real piece of history here! My husband limits me to just 5 sewing machine, and 2 of them are treadles. I can sew when the power goes out!

  2. We have 8 or 9in the house, but two or three are mom’s. I have a “Minnesota M” that my parents put in a treadle when I inherited it from my paternal grandmother when I was 12. (31 yrs ago) I have a wards that I bought when I was a teenager. I have my Kenmore which I used for almost 17 years. I have a cool looking old machine that I’ve never sewn with but i had to buy it at a garage sale 10 years ago for $ 10. I have my serger. I just got a new Viking Saphire just before Christmas ( so I could finish the Christmas presents).
    Mom has a Janome and a Babylock serger. Im not sure but we might still have mom’s old new home machine she bought before she even met dad.

  3. Seven in this household if you include the serger, but since I live with my mom that count includes both of our machines. My best deal is a 1950’s Necchi in the cabinet that I picked up at a rummage sale in Janesville for $2 – and it works!

  4. Sheila emailed me this comment and it was so heartwarming I just had to paste it here:
    So enjoyed reading your description of using four high backed chairs for making your quilt sandwich. It brought back memories from the past of crawling around under a frame like that in my grandmother’s living room (fifty years ago). I still have her original boards with cotton strips tacked on to each board, but haven’t used them for quite awhile. Grandma then pinned her quilt edges to the old strips of cotton sheets. Now I use my mother-in-laws old dinning room table that has eight leaves for constructing my sandwiches. Called my cousin Jean and had her read your blog. Then she called back and we spent about 20 minutes remembering the “olden” days. Isn’t quilting a wonderful hobby. It just makes a person feel good and worth something. Keep up the great messages on your blog.
    Sincerely, Sheila

  5. I have 8 plus one out in the shed that my hubby found for a few dollars at a yard sale. I have one treadle but it is not up and running. Also another machine that is in a roundish cabinet where the machine opens when you lift the lid. Three Kenmores, two Singers (one Featherweight) and my wonderful Bernina :-) I’m running out of room to store them :-)

  6. Let’s see I own 1 treadle (not working yet) 2 featherweights, 1 serger, a Janome, a Bernina, and a Kenmore and a Baby Lock Elegante. That’s 8 my 1st featherweight was my husband’s grandmothers, when she passed away no one wanted the old machine in a box they were going to throw it out not knowing what they were talking about I asked the family if I could look at it. When I saw the case I knew what it was. That little beauty was in mint condition (grandma didn’t sew) I wanted a back up so got a second one on e-bay(interesting process). I use all my machines except the treadle, and the serger. My Baby Lock is my home machine(too heavy to move) . My machines are my fun toys and love having them.

  7. I love reading all the comments. I only have 2 machines but I love being able to say I am a quilter. We are all really such a wonderful and fun group of people.

  8. Just 4. Grandma’s 1960’s Kenmore that she did not like after she got it. She liked her treadle machine. It has cams that go into depressions at the top of the machine. Putting in zippers and buttonholes is a breeze with that machine.
    2 Jemgolds that I love!
    1 Babylock that I got when I did a trade in of a Bernina 1000 series. the Bernina was too heavy, but easier to work with. So the Babylock gathers dust. (Anyone want to trade???) Bonnie

  9. Pat H. emailed me this comment and I needed to share it, especially for the additional history. I counted 10 machines, plus 2 long arms. I think she wins!
    Chris I am thrilled with your purchase and to think that you got it in Wisconsin! I was in grad school in Lincoln, Ne studying at the International QUilt Study Center and i should look for my notes on the invention of the sewing machine. Howe was quite ill and couldn’t work, so his wife made men’s shirts by hand. I believe it took her 21 hours to do so and he felt sorry for her, so he invented the sewing machine, in l834. Well he takes off to Europe with several to sell, and along comes Singer and he patents 10 (I think it is10 or 19) functions of the sewing machine and we still use those parts on modern sewing machines–at least up to the 21st century. But the big steal is that Singer allows women to barter their cow for the sewing machine; also at this time, paying on the installment plan was invented! Singer could sell better but he didn’t invent the machine–he made it better and sold more!

    I had to count my machines–2 Featherweights, one Howe circa l891 in cabinet once owned by a Catholic Bishop’s mother in Milwaukee, Wi (I don’t have the papers on that one with me–it is also in Appleton, , one hand crank with clamp (it is in Appleton, so I can’t say the brand or age but that it is 125 yrs old) Mike saw it in Minneapolis at an antique store while I went to the Minnesota quilt show. A Singer 1590 in prestine condition (I grew up in Indianapolis sewing on my mom’s 1591) Mike found at a yard sale in Kansas and picked it up for me. A Capitol sewing machine from l967–my first sewing machine that I bought for myself. It was used heavily until l98l when I purchased my first Bernina. I own a Bernina 200 E, a 640E, and a 830E. I also have another 150 yr old treedle Howe I bougth while taking a walk in Omaha and paid $57 for cabinet and machine. It is not workable. I have documentation on all of my machines. I also own 2 Gammill stitch regulated machines. I have my father’s grandmother’s treedle sewing cabinet made of oak. Mom sold the head for $5 when she purchased her Singer 1591. I used to own a featherweight sewing table in excellent condition, but sold it early in my marriage as we needed the cash.

    Gee I didn’t realize that I had so many machines!

    Pat Hammeke

  10. I use only treadle and handcrank and my small collection is 9, 3 handcranks and 6 treadles. All in working order. All are from the late 1800s and early 1900s. I love sewing and quilting on them. I demonstrate at local museum functions throughtout the summer to demonstrate them to the public.

    The one you found is wonderful!

  11. wow to all of you I only have my Bernia and a serger Always wanted more Maybe it is time to start looking. Wish My mom hadn’t given away grandmas treadle

  12. I have a Singer Stylist (probably 60’s-70’s version) in a maple cabinet with a knee pedal (bought for $50 from someone who had it in his basement–cleaned it, oiled it and it runs like a brand new machine!), a Brother 900D (sewing/embroidery machine), a Brother NX650 (sewing/quilter model), 2 cheap (box store) Brother’s (one for my grand-daughter to learn to sew with and one as a back-up–because it sews so nicely for a cheap {$80} machine), a Janome serger, a Janome cover-stitch and a Janome Master Craft embroidery machine. My wish list includes a Baby Lock Evolution serger and when I save enough for that purchase, I will have a Janome Serger and a Janome Cover Stitch looking for new homes. All in all, the current total is 8, but still aspiring to add to the collection!

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