"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.


10 thoughts on “"Home at Last!"

  1. Hello Sabrina, I recently resurrected my 1976 Singer 533 from 20 years of storage and I just love it! Before that I had sewn on it almost daily for 15 years for clothing/curtains/etc then started buyer newer and junkier machines that I hated. I had loaned it out once years ago and it came back stripped of every attachment and the book, so it has been rather expensive replacing everything one item at a time. But it's been fun and worth the cost to have 'my' old machine back in the sewing room for my new hobby of quilting – with the larger 'throat' area and the pressure dial it does a great job. I even found a darning foot to where I can do free-motion quilting on it. It works fine without it having the drop feeddogs feature. You can nearly always find something for the 533 on ebay, or even used machines that still run great. The perfect zigzag foot is on this auction http://www.ebay.com/itm/280862051194
    I found one just like it, the #5249 style, a couple of months ago. Have fun with your 'new' 533!


  2. P.S. I just looked, and mine has Great Britain on it too but sold in the US. I saw one on ebay last week that said Made in Canada :o)


  3. do you know what the part is? There's a couple of machines that have been disassembled and listed as parts on US ebay, at any given time there will be numerous parts listed for the 533. Maybe I could help you locate it? I LOVE being able to save old family heirlooms :o))


  4. Well I'll be darn! If you're not afraid to take the bottom cover off, I bet you could figure it out yourself :o) Just lay it on its back, remove the screw and cover, then slowly turn the hand wheel and watch what happens as the gears move. If something's broken or loose it should be visible. Terry at the T&T link is an expert on the 533 and great about helping with problems if you ask. And so is a group of fixit guys (and gals) in this yahoo group. There are women in this group who don't hesitate for a second to completely break down a machine to every last screw! Way beyond my capabilities :o) Super easy to join, and very entertaining conversations about various machines :o))



  5. Thank you. I will have a look. 🙂
    I did have a hook inside the machine. There was _so_ much fluff! There was also a small plastic ring that had broken inside. I think that must be it. I think it used to be a washer on the upper shaft. Now it's not there, the shaft moves from left to right and it shouldn't. Anyway, I'll have a look at the link you game me. Thanks again! 🙂


  6. AHA! you are on your way! I bet anything you will be able to get a replacement and probably even instructions how to put it on yourself. You can join the ranks of other women not afraid to dive in and work on a machine. I'm proud of you for taking that first look :o)) Amy in Arkansas US


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