Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What I'm Reading: The Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook

This post contains affiliate links.

Once upon a time, I had a dream to sew jeans. I bought denim, rivets, and patterns. But one thing was missing: a sewing machine that could handle the task. These shorts that I made last summer showed me the limits of my primary machine (a Brother cs6000i UPDATE 2022, I now use a Brother Project Runway machine), and I started drooling over vintage machines on ebay. Once I started looking, it didn't take long for one to find its way to my door.

This Singer 15-91 is from 1951 (easy to remember, right?). As it stands, it's simple to use. It only sews a straight stitch, after all. But this box of attachments that came with it?

They might as well be trinkets from a lost civilization on Mars. 

Singer 15-91

Shortly after receiving this box of mystery, I discovered the book I'm reviewing today, The Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook. I reserved it at my library only to be told that it was missing. Whomp whomp. Miraculously, after a few months the book was found! And thank goodness, because there is a wealth of information about vintage presser feet, and about vintage machines in general.

vintage Singer

I highly recommend this book if you have a vintage machine and a box of unidentified doodads. I have the original manual for my machine, but full-color photos are far superior to the line drawings in the manual. The author, Charlene Phillips, does an excellent job explaining how to attach each foot, how to use it, and even a variety of practical ideas.

Using this book, I was able to identify all the feet that came with my machine (yes, they were named in the ebay listing, but that didn't help me know what they were when they arrived!).



foot hemmer
Hemming foot

Adjustable hemming foot

Edge stitcher (also for joining lace)

Gathering foot

Adjustable zipper foot


This story ends, sadly, without much use of my vintage machine. Just after receiving it, I got pregnant and jeans went out the window. I elected not to make a coat this winter and I've been sewing mostly knits with my serger. But armed with the knowledge of how all these feet work, I can't wait to sew more with this beauty. Y'know, whenever I find my waist again!

UPDATE for 2022: Since the original post, I have used my vintage machine on many projects, usually on jeans. Click here to see blog search results for "vintage machine". Happy reading!


  1. That looks like a helpful book! I have a Singer 201-2 from 1948 with a similar collection of attachments. I will have to check it out--I am curious how it is that a straight stitch only machine can manage a button hole.

  2. I found this book at the library a few years ago and I found it such an interesting read. It is very clear and I really loved reading it.

    1. It was such a fun read, a great piece of history!

  3. Thank you!! I have a new to me White 1514 that I bought an estate sale that came with a box of attachments. There was not one mention of attachments in the owner's manual. I have every attachment you mention except I have a regular zipper foot & not the adjustable one. Once again thank you so much for posting this explanation! Kind Regards, Pamela


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