Mysterious Attachments – Brother 190B Super Flairmatic

I love to share my sewing machine collection with you but please note, I am an amateur vintage sewing machine collector, I do this for fun – Please do not ask me to help you value your machine or buy/help you sell it. I also will not respond to requests for advice relating to repair or restoration beyond what I have written about. None of my machines or accessories are for sale and I do not give away, lend or sell my manuals, scanned or otherwise, for free or for any sort of payment/trade. Thank you 🙂

The Brother 190 Super Flairmatic came home with me from the Kapiti Coast, with a friend. This is becoming a common occurrence.

Actually the Pfaff got picked up second, from Wainuiomata, about 60 kilometers in the opposite direction. More about her in my next VSM post.

It was a beautiful day for a drive!

I had no clue about this machine when I first saw it, I just loved the colour and 1950sness. She was only $15.00 and look what she came with:

Ohh, a mysterious tin, I love a mysterious tin! I wonder if there’s anything inside?!

Lots of things!

And this weird thing, which we’ll come back to shortly:

She was also absolutely filthy.

They almost always are.

How do they never look as dirty in the online photos? My enthusiasm always dips a little and then I get to work.

So shiny!

Much better!

If you google “Brother 190B Super Flairmatic” you get a lot of pictures. They look just like my machine, in different colours. Mmm, beige…

You’ll also see a 1960s advert from the Sydney Morning Herald for the Lemair-Helvetica Flairmatic Automatic Zig-Zag.

Sensational.

I’m never sure which re-badged machines are legit and which are not…

Anyway, what you’ll not see (or at least I haven’t seen yet) in those Google images is this:

Located just behind the presser foot…it opens up too:

Neat huh? What could it be for? It looked familiar but had me stumped for a while so I kept cleaning and taking photos.

She didn’t come with a manual and all the pdf manuals I’ve seen online show nothing behind the presser foot:

Then my brain woke up and suggested I pull out my vintage Singer buttonhole foot.

Let’s take a look underneath:

Right?!

So I dug back out that weird blue packet from the tin of goodies and it clicked:

It makes buttonholes!

And then I couldn’t get the other half of the cam back out! I struggled for a bit until I took a closer look at the rest of the pieces. Of course it came with a tool for that:

Little tabs and recesses, I was nerding out big time. This is the perfect example of why I love vintage machines and their accessories. It’s ridiculously simple but next-level clever.

I haven’t successfully sewn a button hole just yet. The drive belt was perished and despite coming with a spare Brother branded belt, it’s the wrong size. That’s on my list for the next parts order and I’ll be back to update you.

While investigating further I found an example of a Kenmore buttonholer set on eBay. It has a replacement needle plate featuring a similar cog and full length cams.

I’ve also since seen two more examples of this machine owned by other NZ/Aus collectors in the same colourway and with the buttonhole cog. Neither of those machines came with the accessories and while one lady managed to find a set the other is still looking. So this was clearly an option available for this machine but perhaps only for some markets and only for a brief period of time.

Have you even seen this kind of built-in attachment before?

And that is my Brother 190B Super Flairmatic. As per usual I took too many photos which you can find here. More VSM stories are on my Vintage Sewing Machine page.

“Old man, how is it that you hear these things?”*

Last weekend I added a new machine to my little vintage collection.

And you all know when I say “new” I really I mean “old right?

67 years old.

Not the oldest in my collection but certainly the cutest:

It’s an Elna One, affectionately know as a Grasshopper, Elna’s first production machine and the first ever mass produced portable free arm sewing machine.

These machines, in production between 1940 and 1952, weren’t originally given a model number but almost everyone knows them as an Elna 1 or Elna One and I think you can guess where “Grasshopper” comes from.

I’ve been hunting for a good example for quite some time. When they do come up on TradeMe (NZ’s equivalent of eBay) they often have no case or are in pretty bad shape and the good ones go for crazy prices.

There’s one currently up asking for an opening bid of NZD$450, which is particularly ridiculous considering they have only uploaded one photo (the first photo is free) and it has a single sentence description.

Really? For $450 I think you can shell out that extra 25c for a second photo…or go wild, spend a whole dollar for four photos!

/end rant

My Elna One is date stamped April 1948 and I picked it up for NZD$60.00.

It came with it’s clever folding carry case, accessory box and the original power cord which is in excellent condition. The body paint is pretty good too, only a few chips here and there, mostly at the sides on the base, probably from the edges of the carry case.

Even the light still works! I am however a little sad that there was no instruction booklet.

I used a pdf I found online to wind a bobbin and thread her up and everything works perfectly.

After I removed the wad of fluff from under the feed dogs she sewed like a happy purring kitten.

I’m currently sourcing a reproduction manual to tide me over until I can get hold of an original.

I love vintage sewing machines. They are so beautiful and often very clever.

After threading up to wind the bobbin I was trying to figure out how to declutch and couldn’t see anything in the manual. So I just started winding and realised it was already declutched. I think it happens when you fold out the special little guide that carries the thread down to the bobbin.

I also love how the military-look carry case opens. There are two little buttons, one on each side that you press. The case folds open flat and a smooth surface folds open again from some wire clips. After you fold the base inside you can place it flat upside down on a table. Then the whole thing slots over the free arm to give you more sewing surface.  

It’s knee controlled which I like because it’s still quite unique to me and I really love how the arm folds up to sit in front of the machine. I also have a knee controlled Singer but you have to completely remove the arm and clip it inside the wooden case for transporting.

And that’s about it…except that it’s not. You see between this acquisition and my last I may have acquired an extra machine or two…or three…ok, three!

I never got around to writing about them but that doesn’t mean I love them any less…although the Grasshopper is my current favourite and it will take something pretty spectacular to knock her off the top!

I love them all, especially my “baby” Singer, a 99-13 and all her original accessories…and there may be something else pretty special arriving from Auckland at Christmas time with Fashionable Younger Sister, who is my TradeMe Mule…

So I thought that my machines deserved their own page, somewhere for pretty photos, to collect information about each one, links to my posts, useful websites, and updates about the ones that need some restoration/parts. 

I’ve been working on it for a while, setting everything up took ages, so it’s still a work in progress but here it is so far..

I’ve also added a button link to my side bar.

I am considering rotating these machines so that I actually use them, in place of my usual Elna 2130 so keep your eye out for them sneaking into the odd construction photo.

And that really is it.

Ok, it’s not. I am pretty enamoured with my Grasshopper. I took a lot more photos. A LOT MORE PHOTOS! So to keep this post from overflowing I have given them their own page here.

It’s worth a visit, even if just for the Harri outtakes 😉

footer_machine-string-kitten

*Kung Fu Pilot Episode (TV Series, 1972)

Master Po: [after easily defeating the boy in combat] Ha, ha, never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?

Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.

Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?

Young Caine: No.

Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?

Young Caine: [looking down and seeing the insect] Old man, how is it that you hear these things?

Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?