I love it when a student brings a sewing machine to class that inspires me to learn something. Thursday night happened to be one of those times. I could tell it was an older machine and I had two thoughts: I hope she has the instruction booklet and I'm excited she went to the trouble to bring it to class. I don't expect my students to bring a machine, but if they have one and can bring it, then I can teach them how to use it.
I offered to help her set it up and asked if she had sewn on it recently. I was happy when she replied she had tested it last night because then I knew there was a possibility of it working. I have had students bring in machines that have sat in basements for years. It is never fun to have to tell kids that their machines have to be serviced before they can be used. I hoped tonight that wouldn't be the case. I lifted the machine out of the container, plugged in the presser foot and power cord and it turned on fine. My student assured me she knew how to thread it, so I went to attend to another kid. Then I heard those famous last words, "Michelle, my machine isn't working..." I headed back over to her and sure enough, the machine was on, but it wouldn't sew! I noticed that the bobbin winder was engaged, which could prevent the needle from moving up and down. Typically that can be adjusted by pushing in or tightening the center of the manual wheel, but that was not the case this time. I was stumped! I asked if she has an instruction booklet (I think so, but I don't know where it is) so I decided I needed to sit down until I figured it out. I started investigating the machine: the more I searched, the cooler I realized it was! It crossed my mind that it was a hybrid of some kind from the early '70s and I wrote the model number down so I could research it later.
I still had a mystery to solve. The one clue I had was the bobbin function. It was a drop-in bobbin (on the top by the feed dogs, and not in the front on the neck) and it was a self-winding bobbin design I had seen once before in a vintage machine (I wish I could remember what that one was). I think, there must be something in the bobbin that I can disengage, but I can't figure out what. Then I just go for it. There is a panel of buttons with no information on the top of the machine. I press the first one: nothing (later I figure out it is the reverse button). I press the second one: bingo! It works! Mystery solved.
When I got home I did some research. Turns out the Singer Athena has an interesting place in history. It was introduced in 1975 and was the first electronic sewing machine. If you click on the photo it will take you over to a time line on the singer website. There are some other interesting facts about the machine and free pdfs of the schematics here: Athena 2000. I just love this stuff!