crafts · Sewing

A new home for Doris

My husband and I have a weekly tradition: every Friday night I pick him up from work.  We usually do our weekly grocery shopping then (that’s when Whole Foods offers 5 beer tastings and appetizers for $5, and my husband is all about that!)  On the way we usually stop at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which is right by his office.  A few months ago I saw a sewing machine desk with a machine, which isn’t unusual at these stores (though I don’t think the re-store usually takes them, as they have mostly architectural thrift items.)  I was pretty sure it was a Singer slant needle machine, similar to my 500A Rocketeer, Doris:

I’ve owned my Rocketeer for two years, but I don’t use it as often as I might because I don’t have a place to keep it.  As you can see, these machines are really made to recess into a singer sewing table or desk.  I’ve wanted to buy one, but it’s hard to find them in my area.

I got home and checked the internet, comparing the machine with photos on the internet.  I realized that it was a 403A, almost the same as my machine but without the fancy rocket styling:

The 503A would be the equivalent in my model.  The 403/503 don’t have built in stitches, but they do use cams (included with this machine, which has all the accessories other than the foot pedal. )

The re-store marks items down according to how long they’ve been there.  I wanted the desk, but I knew I would probably just sell the machine, so I watched and waited until it went to 75% off, and picked up the whole thing for 25 dollars!  I hauled it home in my Mom’s truck, and brought it into my foyer (currently the staging area from my house work – keeping it real here!)

The desk included all the cams and feet as well as the power cord (no foot pedal, but the pedals on these are prone to burning out, so that’s not shocking.)  It also came with an original carrying case, which I plan to keep, as my rocketeer doesn’t have one.  I found a brochure online showing my sewing table:

(image from, circa 1960)

My cabinet is the Hampden Court, described above thus: “This beautiful desk of 18th century design is an exceptional piece of furniture.  It is equipped with seven drawers for storage space.  Comes in mahogany finish.”  It’s extremely heavy and solid, especially with the 403 inside (if you’ve never tried to pick up an all metal machine you are in for a surprise!)  It’s missing the drawer pulls on the center front drawer (actually a false front) but otherwise it is intact.    I’m probably going to paint it, as the veneer is chipped and peeling in spots.  I’m looking forward to using my rocketeer more – I will be sure to post when I actually get around to refinishing the cabinet!





12 thoughts on “A new home for Doris

  1. Beautiful! When we bought our house, the elderly lady who owned it before us left me all of her old crafting things (yay!) including a sewing machine which swung out of a desk. It was very heavy, and although I was tempted to keep it, I knew I wouldn’t use it (I have my mom’s machine, which I’m really used to) so I put it up for sale. The young lady who came and picked it up was really thrilled (I priced it quite low, I mean, I had gotten it for free!), and I was happy that someone was going to make good use of it. One of the coolest things about the machine/table was a side petal that you could press with the side of your knee.

  2. Thank-yu for posting the leaflet, I bought an Ardmore table containing a 403A with all its cams and loads of “bits” on Ebay for £18 about two months ago. It is a great machine and the table is small and works well in my tiny flat.

  3. i am a ReStore fiend. at the one near me, i once picked up a 1915 redeye, in its cabinet, and it had already been retrofitted to use electricity. i was over the moon! i paid more than you did, though 😦

  4. I ran across your post and fell in love with Doris. What a fantastic sewing machine! Best of luck with refinishing the cabinet!

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