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To celebrate the 160th anniversary of SINGER®, we asked a few of our members to share their sewing stories. This week we spoke with Aussie member EllaLeoncio to get the lowdown on how she started sewing, her inspirations, and the history behind her Singer machine. Stay tuned through the month of September for more stories and head over to MySINGERStory.com and share yours for the chance to win a brand new Singer 160™ machine!

Where are you from and where do you live now? What do you do other than sew?
I was born in the Philippines and moved to Melbourne, Australia when I was four years old. I’ve been living in Melbourne ever since. When I’m not sewing I work as an architect, which I really enjoy. Outside of work, I’m the author of the blog, “moleskine” which is design blog that looks at fashion, photography, architecture, interiors, art – basically anything that I find interesting and inspirational! Contemporary dance is also a huge part of my life.

How did you start sewing?
I remember sewing clothes for my Cabbage Patch Kid so I must have started quite young. My mum taught me the basics and I developed my skills at high school. For the next few years, I was sewing sporadically using my mum’s machine but rarely felt confident enough to wear anything I had made.

About a year or so ago, there were two things that sparked a rather explosive sewing obsession: buying my own sewing machine (my first vintage SINGER!) and finding a few sources of good patterns, namely the BurdaStyle website and magazine and Japanese pattern books. At last I felt comfortable sewing and was producing things I actually wanted to wear. As of last year, almost all my new clothes were made by me.


What’s your sewing inspiration?

I’d say that my work as an architect inspires me. I find myself most drawn to things with interesting structures like pleats, drapes, gathers and voluminous shapes. Although I like clothing that is “architectural,” I’m also conscious of keeping shapes soft, feminine and flattering.


Being a beginner, the ability to explore the structural ideas that I’m interested in can be quite limiting. I really love Japanese pattern books like “Drape Drape” because they allow me to dabble with some unconventional garment structures at my skill level. I’d love to develop my skill base further, particularly in pattern drafting, so I can explore my interests further.

Traditionally, I wear mostly black and grey and use structure and texture for interest. However, more recently, I’ve been inspired by my sky blue bike. I suppose I see my bike as my biggest accessory so I’m suddenly drawn to gardenia prints and bright colours.


Last but certainly not least, BurdaStyle is a massive source of inspiration for me. I particularly love looking at how other members interpret patterns and make little adjustments to turn commercial patterns into something unique and personalized.

Where and how did you get your sewing machine?
I actually have two SINGER sewing machines, a 99k and 201k, both of which were second hand and found online. Both were pre-loved by elderly women who made clothing for their children. Apparently my grandma had a SINGER too. I really wish I knew where it was because I’d love to have it too.

I really enjoy using these pre-loved machines. There’s something romantic and joyous about using a machine that is layered with so much history. In fact, I have to hold back from buying more. I swear, if storage wasn’t an issue I’d probably own an entire empire of vintage SINGER machines!

If you were to design your ideal sewing machine, what would it include? What would it look like?
I already love how my Singer 99K looks. The shape, proportion and the beautiful decals make it such a visually stunning machine so aesthetically, there’s not much I would change. In terms of function, the 201k offers more functionality than the 99k and I’d say the 201k, whilst still fairly basic, covers my needs. I actually really enjoy the simplicity of it, so again, not much I would change. There are only a few dials which makes using it very intuitive and it’s so easy to control. However, I would like to add the option of using a double needle because I love wearing jerseys.


After you headed over to MySINGERStory.com and entered your machine’s serial number, what was your reaction to the story behind your sewing machine?
After I bought my machines I did quite a bit of research to find out more, so admittedly, the website hasn’t really told me anything new. Having said that, things would have been much easier for me if I could just type in the serial number at the time and have all the information so easily accessible and as beautifully presented as it is on the new website. One thing I think the website could include is an indication of the the model number with a description of the machine’s capabilities. I’d also love to know a bit about the first owner, but that would be a major breach in privacy!

From Ella: To celebrate being invited to share “My Singer Story” on BurdaStyle, I’m hosting a giveaway on my blog. Up for grabs is a collection of goodies from local Melbourne vintage haberdashery boutique, L’uccello. Head to my blog for details.

Thanks to Patricia and Big J for helping me photograph my projects and to Little J for helping me collect images for my mood board.

Do you have a SINGER manufactured before 1970? Head over to MySINGERStory.com, type in your serial number and learn about your machine. Share your SINGER story on MySINGERStory.com for the chance to win The SINGER 160™ Limited Edition Sewing Machine!

Show and tell time! We want you to share photos of your sewing inspirations, your machine, or your personal history with sewing to celebrate this important anniversary. Simply submit photos to susan@burdastyle.com with the subject line “mySINGERstory” and your shots could appear in our Gallery album!


  • Missing

    Sep 5, 2011, 01.43 PMby Annielou54

    I was surfing and I found you…I love you…and your creations….I have my mother’s sewing machine…much like your singer…and she was the sole owner ….as a child I remember sewing on it …I have my own but I have hers too….I love the muslin dress….did you design it or …what’s the story…I seem to be getting the sewing itch ….I am a scrapper and mixed media artist ……but I have used my sewing skills in my creations ….

    1 Reply
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      Sep 6, 2011, 12.16 PMby EllaLeoncio

      Thank you so much! What lovely compliments. Unfortunately, I’m not quite clever enough to have designed that dress (although one day, I hope I will be). It’s from the Drape Drape pattern book. It was all in Japanese but somehow it was actually relatively easy to work out how it comes together. There was a slight battle with the bias seam at the back but I eventually overcame it.

      Even though I started sewing quite young, I’ve only really just started sewing properly in the last year. I definitely recommend getting into it. It’s really not as scary as I thought it would be and it’s so much fun!

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    Aug 31, 2011, 03.18 PMby wolfywilgus

    my grandmother gave me my first machine — it’s a singer two twenty one featherweight, and you’re so right, it’s so romantic! it has some qwirks that we have to work thru together sometimes that i’m not use to from using my mothers newer singer, but i think i like it more for that. And i swear that thing feels like i could truck through any material. it’s so sturdy! i love it!

    doesn’t it just inspire you to stay classy with your style or something?!

    1 Reply
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      Sep 6, 2011, 12.12 PMby EllaLeoncio

      Oh, I’ve heard so much about these Featherweights. I must get my hands on one sometime.

      I agree, a beautiful machine does make me feel classy!

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    Aug 31, 2011, 02.38 AMby ilksen bahşi

    my machine singer traditional. Very good machine. Small but big worker. I like it.

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    Aug 30, 2011, 07.43 PMby ThomasLeeDesigns

    I have the same machine in your photos above. I actually just got it froma yard sale, beautifully in hsape with the case and all the original parts/bobbins… I couldn’t pass it up! I’ve started collecting old machines for the fun and beautiful looks/shapes they have and have them on display around my studio space where I sew… they are veryinspirational to look at and work with. And I love how your inspired by your bike! It’s a very wounderful color and shape! Best wishes to you!

    1 Reply
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      Sep 6, 2011, 12.10 PMby EllaLeoncio

      Thank you for your kind words. I am so tempted to buy more of these machines. I’d love to collect more but unfortunately my apartment is tiny. Hopefully one day I’ll get a bigger place and I’ll go bananas buying Singers!

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    Aug 30, 2011, 07.43 PMby ThomasLeeDesigns

    And I love the gathering on your grey colored dress on the sholders! Very cute and I’d wear that dress in a heart beat!!

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    Aug 30, 2011, 11.00 AMby fashionfreek

    Lovely read about your love for Singer. I do like your style,very nice and suits you. My mum still has her old singer and well looked after..it is a great machine. All the best to you:-)

    1 Reply
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      Aug 30, 2011, 02.25 PMby EllaLeoncio

      Thank you! I wish my machines were passed through generations, like yours. Lucky you!

  • Missing

    Aug 29, 2011, 11.15 PMby Jenny772

    You have some really delightful numbers in your collection. You must have had a very well dressed Cabbage Path Kid : )

    Ooooo, giveaways too!! Always a welcome addition to any story…

    1 Reply
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      Aug 30, 2011, 02.22 PMby EllaLeoncio

      Thanks! Unfortunately my skills as a child were pretty underdeveloped. Hence, not to stylish Cabbage patch kids!

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