Instructables
Picture of Old Sewing Machines are Hidden Treasures!
Old sewing machines are an undiscovered TREASURE! They are very easy to learn on, hard to break, easy to maintain and can be purchased cheaply or are sometimes even FREE!

Old sewing machines are great to learn on for people from 12 years old and up (and younger if supervised carefully!)

Using one of these old sewing machines is the best way to learn to sew inexpensively.

With a little cleaning and learning you can be sewing your own awesome creations in just hours!

This instructable will show you some basics about old sewing machines and tell you places to look for more information. Are you ready to sew? The treasures are all around you!

Step 1: Where Can I Find These Great Machines?

Picture of Where Can I Find These Great Machines?
I love http://www.craigslist.org for finding old sewing machines, but you can also find them in second hand shops and garage sales and sometimes even in a family member's closet :)

Look for a machine that doesn't have a lot of damage and always ask for the electric cord, foot pedal, owner's manual and all the accessories. Sometimes you might not get all of these things but the foot pedal and electric cord can be hard to track down so I never buy a machine without them.

Ask to plug the machine in and make sure it works. If you have to test it manually by turning the flywheel, remember to turn it toward you (counter clockwise).

It is nice to get a lot of accessories with your machine but you don't need them to learn with. Just the basics will work fine for most sewing.

You can bring some scraps of fabric and some thread with you to test the machine. If the owner has the machine threaded, keep the thread on so that you can see how it is supposed to be threaded (if there is no manual).

If a friend or family member is giving or selling you the machine, ask them for a few lessons!! Offer to do something for them if they will teach you :)

If you can watch video on the internet, this page has good information about the differences in sewing machines and what the parts are called: http://www.quilt-video.com/sewing-machine-tutorial/
 
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NicoleB123 days ago

Hi Marguerita,

I just inherited an old Singer 347 that looks exactly like yours and I can't wait to try it out! I downloaded the manual as a PDF, but I saw nothing in it that references the little wheel thing with the two stitch symbols above the rest of the control panel. I have no idea what it does, but I heard that the 347 is capable of blind stitching. Is that wheel the stitch selector, or does it do something else?

Thanks!

MargueritaM (author)  NicoleB122 days ago
Hi Nicole, I'm afraid that I gave that machine away, so I can't tell you specifically. I wonder if it's a way to drop the feed dogs for darning or free motion quilting?
Cann0n10 months ago
I have a Kenmore 12 (1978) and I love it. Nothing is plastic. The only issue is the bobbin winding wheel is rubber and has a flatspot. I need more practice before I venture into designing suits.
Kittykylie1 year ago
I have just bought an old Alfa challenge of my mother in law. Just gotta learn not to put my foot down to the floor!
Covo5 years ago
I have an old Elna (handed down of corse) that works but needs constant adjustment, slips when it starts, and often tangles. Can anyone advise if it is worth fixing or using the above techniques to purchase a used one.
jeanicrowe Covo2 years ago
Have you tried a good cleaning? Make sure it is spick and span inside. If that isn't it, its probably the timing. Timing is easy to do with instructions. I would look on the net for a site on timing.
Don't forget to oil the machine after cleaning! You can find the directions for oiling in the manual-and always use colorless sewing machine oil, not multipurpose or even naturally tinted oil. Sometimes cleaning removes too much oil, especially as lint and dust tends to soak it up. Running an older machine without fresh oil is similar to running your car without oil...

If the machine is the least bit noisy, try oiling it according to the manual (too much oil can get into the thread and fabric you're working with). Machines will often skip stitches*** when it needs oiling...try not to let it go that long though.  For occasional sewing, oil at least once a month.  A trick to make sure that fabric won't get damaged from stray oil, before rethreading the machine remove the needle and "stitch" a paper towel for a few inches.  Don't oil a machine with any thread or fabric in it.



***Note: skipped stitches can also be caused by a needle that needs replacing.  A good guideline is a new needle every project or at most every 3 hours of sewing time.  Going longer makes your sewing sloppy even if it isn't readily apparent at first. Don't wait for something to go wrong before changing the needle. 

Also, another good habit to get into is to brush out lint whenever changing the bobbin.
MargueritaM (author)  winterwindarts1 year ago
Great reminders - Thank you!!
jeanicrowe2 years ago
I have a treadle machine, a treadle converted to electric, one of the first electric models, a singer from the 50's, a Kenmore from the early 80's and two fairly new brothers. My oldest works just as well as my newest and I get to burn calories pumping that treadle! While new machines have great features like auto stitching (no foot pedal) and lots of fancy stitches, for plain old straight seam sewing they are work great. A dirty machine won't sew-the thread will bunch up, it will skip stitches and sometimes none of the stitches will lock. The very first thing you should do is take off the bobbin plat, remove the bobbin and give that machine a good cleaning with a soft brush. Get all of the dust, lint and thread out. If it still doesn't sew, it is probably out of timing and on older machines that is pretty easy to do yourself. I have a book on timing sewing machines but I bet you can find instructions on the net. Those two things will usualy fix ny old macine as long as the motor works and the inner gears aren't frozen.
I'm 14 years old and I'm a guy this past summer I got a 1951 singer machine for 20 dollars ad I am mad because I can't figure out how to thread it
which thread? The upper bobbin or the bobbin under then needle and foot/guide?
Lardyvegan2 years ago
I recently cleaned up my grandma's Singer 315, given to me years ago after she passed, and after paying 99p for a replacement bobbin pin, and a few pounds for a dowloaded manual, I think I'm good to go!
I'm looking forward to learning to make clothes and cosplay costumes (my daughter is an anime junkie!) and maybe even some Steampunk style outfits for myself.
Glad to see the old machines are held in such high regard! :)
Love your handle! It's just TMI, and that's what makes it fun. My first machine was singer flatbed portable made in brazil--with about 25-35 cams that did everything but scour the kitchen sink. Bought an external (used-estate sale) singer buttonholer that worked perfect on my first two men's shirts. Then it was a fancy Pfaff Hobbymatic, and from there, my first (like mom's last) Pfaff 1222e. It was stolen shortly after I bought and refurbished a Pfaff 1471 Creative, with IDF (integrated dual feed--[both upper and lower feed dogz--too cool]) Right now, if I need to use anything more than that, there's a friend in Fresburg that has Pfaff industrial in his upholstery shop, and we've got an industrial machine at school as well.
MargueritaM (author)  Lardyvegan2 years ago
Good for you! Thank you for sharing your story too - yes, many people treasure their old sewing machines. Welcome to the group :)
As luck would have it, about 3 years ago I found a Pfaff Creative 1471 at a St. Vincent's thrift in my zip code (ok, Redwood City).
The machine was in the back, and hadn't been priced. It didn't have a manual ($5 to download a printable PDF file, or, $15-ish to snag an immaculate printed original! It had a working electronic pedal, but needed a Radio Shanty $8.90 power cord.
The machine 'as-is' was priced at $25. At home, and plugged in, the '888888888888' across the electronic display said, "I need a new brain." That was a no-brainer. SamTrans-to-BART-to-a 10 minute local busride, and I was at a Pfaff dealer in Walnut Creek that had a rebuilt chip for $235-ish. Student discount: no labor charge (Canada College Fashion); the machine was ready in an hour, so I upgraded it's lighting system with a $45 improvement. Hey, it's that baby, and my 1958 (flawless!) Singer featherweight! That's all for now. kurt
Goodhart2 years ago
I can attest to the problems that can arise from too much or too little tension....broke a few needles and even bent the lower bobbin in the process. Going too fast (rushing the material through) was probably another reason I broke the one needle *sigh*
OH MY GOSH!!! I was just looking around and came across this because I saw your Singer Model: 347 (at least I hope that's what it is). I just got two sewing machines. The first went up in smoke the second I pressed the pedal; it was old, simple, and i didn't like it anyway and after all I have a running Singer treadle machine in it's cabinet as an antique. The other was a Singer Model: 347 and I LOVE IT!!! I oiled it up and it runs great. The first thing I made was an 8x8 inch square quilted block. It's just 16 little squares stuck together in a simple pattern haha. The second thing I made was a simple pin cushion. I haven't read this article yet (for fear of loosing this loooong comment haha), but could you please reply with any comments of your own on your machine? I would love to hear more!
MargueritaM (author)  XysflightchampX3 years ago
Hi,

I got that Singer either free or for less than $50 and after cleaning it thoroughly and running some test fabric through it, I gave it to a young mom (a friend of my daughter's) who is teaching her daughter to sew. They only had one sewing machine and my daughter thought it would be nice if they had two - one for the mom and one for the pre-teen daughter.

So, I can't tell you a lot about it. I didn't really use it, I just made sure that it ran well and then bought the supplies (bobbins, needles, etc.) and gave it away. I DO know that it is a very nice, reliable machine and I am really sure that the pre-teen who has it will be using it for a long time :)

I am thrilled that you love yours!

Marguerita
Typogoddess3 years ago
when i was in seventh grade, i bugged my mom and she brought out her 20 lb. Singer UltraStitch 10. It had ten stitches, constantly ate my fabric, and had a habit of making NOMNOMNOM noises... but i learned from it. My brother sewing machine is due tomorrow. 80 bucks!
MargueritaM (author)  Typogoddess3 years ago
Hurray!! What are you going to sew first? Clothes, household items, quilts?
polly755 years ago
Love your instructable! A member of the Treadleon group (dedicated to people powered machines) posted it on the list. I have a Vintage Italian Necchi group on Yahoo--come join us and find out about the wonderful Supernovas and lots more! We think they're the Cadillac of sewing machines!!

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/necchisewingmachineclub
I love my old Necchi Supernova! Last week it was too cold to go up to the garage where my industrial machines reside so I set up the Necchi in the lounge room(with wood fire heater). The Necchi sewed up the canvas gaiters (in places up to four layers of canvas!) like a little trooper ; never missed a beat/stitch!!! And it only has a 0.3amp motor.
MargueritaM (author)  polly755 years ago
Thank you for the invitation :)
Great Instruct! I,ve been sewing for 20+ years with machines and hand methods! I sure appreciate the quality construction of the older machines!  Just don't have room to collect them! I do have an industrial machine(Consew 7360) I bought new 8 years ago, because home models aren't  powerful enough to sew garment-weight leather on a daily basis! I used a Necchi(made it Taiwan) I got new in the mid-'90s from one of those "school overstock" sales that pop up at hotels around the country. It served me well for a  while, until I got more serious about  the finer art of  leather hats! I love the industrial unit, would be very hard to use any home-sized ones(they feel like toys in comparison!) BTW, my Consew has electronic speed control and needle positioning ( Perfect for the detail work on my hats).
The older ones are definitely awesome. I have a late 40's model Singer that I call 'Megachunk'... It got that knickname after I was boasting to a friend how it would go through leather... So I sewed together two pieces of plywood with upholstery thread and it didn't miss a stitch!
Allan Wells4 years ago
Thanks Marguerita for this instructable. This may sound like a dumb question but what is the technique for bringing the bobbin thread up to the top of what you're sewing? This would save me having to backstitch as I could then just tye off the threads with a reef knot.
MargueritaM (author)  Allan Wells4 years ago
Hi Allan, I have a video about bringing up the bobbin thread on YouTube here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDERq4I7l-Q I hope it helps :)
Thanks Marguerita, You are a really good teacher. Very concise and clear. I'll give this a go sewing my bushwalking gear. Regards, Allan
Allan Wells4 years ago
I found it nearly impossible to get an industrial machine to go slowly until just recently when one of my Grade 3 students (9year old) at School told me, ' Mum just puts my sponge ball under the pedal to slow hers down'. Works a treat!!! A length of shockcord tied to the pedal and the kneelift shaft works just as well. When it comes to domestic machines my old Husqvarna 2000 has a reduction gear which you activate by pulling on the bobbin winder gizmo. It reduces sewing speed by one fifth but at full motor power. I wish all machines had this feature or something similar.
Allan Wells4 years ago
So true about old sewing machines, especially the ones with metal gears! My mother bought an old 1950's Necchi Supernova machine at a garage sale for $8.00 and gave it to me as a joke. The wooden base was broken. The base took about 10minutes to repair. It is an awesome machine and so easy to maintain! I also have a couple of Husqvana 220's and a Viking 2000 machine, all of which are well made and sew well but their 'Achilles heel' are the nylon drive gears which eventually shatter and render the machine useless because Husqvarna have not supplied/stocked the gears for many years. I had to learn to manufacture replacement gears myself using silicone moulds and polyurethane. For canvas and leather I use two old industrial machines on got on ebay for the grand total of $21; a Singer 491 and a Pfaff 260. They are awesome machines but oh so fast. A relative gave me an old but lightly used Empisal machine from the early 70's ( at a guess) which works well but does have a plastic drive gear. My advice for new sewers is look at ebay or garage sales.
MargueritaM (author)  Allan Wells4 years ago
Thanks so much Allan for your story! Great advice too :)
SeaSkyShore4 years ago
I certainly agree that older machines are better than newer by far.  I recently acquired an old White Sew & Serge (late 70's) from my mother and I am in love. It is a dream to sew with and so easy to maintain!
ddlearns5 years ago
Another common problem is that the needle is inserted into the machine backwards. Be sure the flat side of the needle shank is facing the correct way for your machine,
Remember, kids: The pointed end goes DOWN. ;-)
MargueritaM (author)  ddlearns5 years ago
Thank you so much for that tip!
A few years ago I bought a brand new low-end Singer (the cheapest model they make) - it turned out to be an absolutely terrible machine, breaking needles left, right, and centre and constantly needing to be rethreaded (and the tension problems - ARGH!). After some damp weather the foot plate started to RUST (I kid you not) I ended up not using it at all and giving up on sewing. A few weeks ago a friend of mine gave me an old Singer (from the 70s, I think) and it runs like an absolute DREAM! The only time I have to rethread it is when I change colour, and I haven't had a broken needle yet. Older machines are AWESOME! Now I sew all the time and I love it! One tip is to always check the website of your machine's manufacturer - the Singer website, for instance, has threading guides for their machines (though they charge you for their manuals). I'm sure other manufacturers do the same.
 Platy, if your Singer is breaking needles, it could be out of time.  My mom's ancient (from the 1950s, IIRC) Singer would get out of time every couple years, and we'd have to run it to the local sewing machine shop, where they would re-time it.  That one died completely in the late 1990s, after 40 years of non-stop use (literally--mom was the go-to lady for prom dresses, alterations, and general mending).  She has a Necchi now (2nd one--the firs drowned in Katrina), and loves it.
Yeah, the thing you have to remember about Singer is that somewhere around the 60s or so Singer cut back on (and eventually quit) making sewing machines and sold off the rights to the name to various foreign manufacturers. A Singer machine today isn't really a Singer at all... just a useless paperweight with the Singer name & logo stamped on it.

I have two Singer model 401's that are amazing machines... and one I got off of Craigslist for free, in the original Singer cabinet. The other I bought off of eBay with all the accessories and "fashion discs" in the original wooden carrying case for under $100. Both were easy to clean up, are easy to maintain, and sew far better than any modern machine I've ever used (and that's saying a lot since I've owned a few top of the line computerized machines that professional seamstresses & tailors have lusted over)
MargueritaM (author)  platypusymphony5 years ago
Great advice, thank you so much for sharing your story and tips!
Faynilla5 years ago
i love old machines. hardly considered buying a new one.

I happened upon a 1922 singer sewing machine at a yard sale for $15.00!!!

it worked and is awesome. i dont think i will ever buy a "New" machine.
UlrikeHaupt5 years ago
Ah, old reliable faithfuls. The best stitches and silent work come from the straightstitch Pfaff 12 I inherited from my grandmother. VERY sturdy cast iron tread base. Where the non electronic Empisal Pacesetter fails the Pfaff still goes through layers of fabric not missing a stitch. Actually I learned to sew on my mother's Pfaff 360 (or so) during the sixties and I was definitely younger than 10. But then I had watched her doing it for ages already. And sitting on the treadle, using the wheel as 'steering wheel' I must have driven thousands of virtual miles. Of course that was when I was still small enough to fit under the cabinet. :) Thanks for the great instructable
MargueritaM (author)  UlrikeHaupt5 years ago
Thank you for sharing your sewing story and experiences with these great older machines :)
ugly5 years ago
I have sewn all my life and always on machines much older than me. Who is lucky enough to have a new machine? Maybe some day a girl can dream :)
Kasm279 ugly5 years ago
look at pawn shops - my mom found a semi-computerized Brother for like $30
MargueritaM (author)  Kasm2795 years ago
Great suggestion!! Thank you :)
MargueritaM (author)  ugly5 years ago
Hi there, I think you are pretty lucky to have learned on the old machines - I know I learn more with them than I do with the newer machines ;)
(removed by author or community request)
not the old ones - the only electronic parts are the motor and the light (it it has one)
karen85 years ago
What a great site - chock full of info. I have an old Ford machine, sort of coral colour, sleek and shiny - reminds me of an old Caddy. It is mostly for looks - I love my Berninas.
Kasm279 karen85 years ago
lol, Ford made a lot of things... FORD FTW!
MargueritaM (author)  karen85 years ago
Hi Karen, I had no idea that Ford even made sewing machines! Thanks so much :)
yetunguez5 years ago
I LOVE old sewing machines! I found my best one for $8 at my local "junky-pile" type thrift store. They always, always have them too! If I didn't already have 2 sewing machines, I'd keep collecting them! The only thing is that they don't come with instruction manuals and parts may be hard to get.
MargueritaM (author)  yetunguez5 years ago
What a great bargain! I have had some luck with the manuals, buying them online, but you are right about the parts. Thanks so much!
phall01065 years ago
If you're confused about what size needles to buy for your sewing machine, I've always found the employees at fabric stores to be a wonderful source of information. They can explain the difference between the sizes of needles, what size to use for what type of fabric and what type of fabric might be best for your project. Just ask!
MargueritaM (author)  phall01065 years ago
You are so right! Thanks so much for posting :)
mman15065 years ago
watch out in old sewing machine that the plastic gears arent brittle .i have a singer that i could break the gears with my hands
The not-so-old singers with the slanted needle ("Stylist"? 401?) are notorious for shattering gears. They're Nylon, and after 40 or so years of wearing a coat of grease they just become as brittle and crumbly as Styrofoam. I have a 1921 Type 66 and a Type 15 clone made in Japan that keep on keeping on..
I collect old Singers--- if it has plastic gears, it doesn't count as old! Singer had been making machines for 100 years by the point they started going downhill and using plastic. They'd been making machines for 70 years before they started using gears! You should see the elaborate gear-less rotary mechanisms in some of these machines (like the 115) The old all-metal machines are cheap and there's nothing on them to break. My newest machine is a 319 from 1957. My oldest is a 28 from 1899. They both stitch wonderfully and take modern needles; that's been standard a long long time now.
MargueritaM (author)  xiphmont5 years ago
Thank you for those details and clarifications! I am beginning to learn how hard it is to see one of these old treasures sit neglected somewhere!

September is National Sewing Month and I am working to get the word out that *anyone* could be sewing today on one of these great machines, for very little money. Thanks so much for your post, Marguerita
MargueritaM (author)  mman15065 years ago
Good Advice! Thank you :)
julibelle5 years ago
A great instructable! My Mom gave me a Kenmore (same as the pic) for HS graduation in 1973 and I still pull it out for one thing or another a couple of times a year. It's been a lifesaver many many times and I've sewn horse blankets, tents, repaired jeans & jackets, made my own curtains from beautiful old cotton sheets and a few clothes. I did have a fancy schmancy million stitch machine and I sold it on craigs....for me it was just too delicate, almost over engineered for my purposes.
MargueritaM (author)  julibelle5 years ago
Hi Julibelle, I have cherished my old Kenmore for a long, long time even though I also have one of those new electronic machines (which let me down in the middle of a critical project!!) I guess that's why I value the old workhorses so much. Thanks so very much for posting!
sniffydogs5 years ago
Singer makes parts for all their old machines. I have a wonderful 1886 Treadle. No electricity involved. It works wonderfully even on leather. I had to get a new belt for it. I agree, make sure you get all the electrical cords, pedal, etc. Thanks for this Instructable! I've picked them up at thrift stores and garage sales for as little as $10.
MargueritaM (author)  sniffydogs5 years ago
Hi, Thank you for your comments! I had a great old Singer *given* to me! A couple of others I paid $25 for. I really want to pass these great machines on to young people who want to learn to sew.

I also bought a Kenmore in an old cabinet for $100 and made a video about how much I dislike most of those old cabinets - they aren't good for your body ergonomically BUT because of that the machines in them are virtually unused!

Thanks so much for sharing your sewing machine experiences, Marguerita
ehmbee5 years ago
Great Instructable-a sewing machine is good for a lot more than you realize-I learned how to use a machine back in good 'ol Home Economics. I have inherited multiple machines from relatives, in addition to scoring some cheap finds at my local thrift store. I even have purchased a brand new machine. One last thing I have to get is a commercial-grade machine that will let me do things like leather and upholstery. I've made my own camping equipment, repaired tons of things (work has me tearing jeans, etc. a lot). Gradually I'm hoping to do 'ibles on some of this stuff. I'm not surprised bad experiences occured at repair shops for some posters-they really seem to want to sell you a new machine, and unfortunately that is not something we all want or even need. My shop farms extra work out to a local guy who has Singer, etc. factory technician status. Locally you may be able to find someone like this more eager to fix than sell, ask around.
MargueritaM (author)  ehmbee5 years ago
Hi and thank you! Great information and I hope you do make those instructables! I have one on repairing ripped out belt loops on jeans :) I have also had mixed experiences at repair shops - one told me to "get that thing" off their counter and out of their shop! Needless to say, I never send anyone to THAT shop for any reason. But another shop - he's worked on my old Kenmore twice and even came to our quilting guild meeting and gave a talk about maintaining and cleaning your own sewing machine. I send everyone I know to HIS shop :) I am thrilled to see so much interest in old sewing machines. I could write a book about how great they are but for now this 'ible seems to be getting interest going and that's what I really hoped for! Thanks so much for sharing your information and experiences, Marguerita
tmross45 years ago
When I was in Campfire Girls (So long ago!) my parents bought me a New Home Treadle Sewing Machine. I learned to sew on that. I still have it, some 30 odd years later, but sadly the cabinet needs major restoration.
MargueritaM (author)  tmross45 years ago
I was a Brownie and Camp Fire Girl 150 years ago!! Okay, it was more like 30ish years ago too :) A few years ago I refinished all the kitchen cupboards (solid oak) and it wasn't has hard as I thought it would be. Finding the right stripping agent was first, then just getting the motivation to do it was tough, but now I am glad because every time I see them I am proud of my work. They look great! If you tackle your sewing cabinet you could do an instructable about it :) Marguerita
kevinhannan5 years ago
Would it be okay to ask you if you wouldn't mind thinking about doing either an answer or an 'ible on the relative strengths of various stitching. You see, I am now on the look-out for a 2nd-hand sewing machine, but I don't know what stitches go with what (except button-hole!). Sorry,if this is too much, even a link would be fantastic, you see, I wouldn't know what to type in the search box. Many, many thanks for this great intro!
MargueritaM (author)  kevinhannan5 years ago
Hi Kevin, You have me thinking!! I will look and see what I can find on the 'net and either post links or write something up. Thanks for the suggestion!
Thanks - you are very kind. ;-)
Cpt. Caleb5 years ago
This is great, I adore old sewing machines, the sturdy metal frame wins out over the cheap new plastic ones hands down. Mine is missing pieces, anyone know where can I find really specific small bits of sewing machines?
MargueritaM (author)  Cpt. Caleb5 years ago
Hi Cale, You might want to try your local "Sew & Vac" shops or ebay for the parts you need. Thanks so much for posting, Marguerita
seamster5 years ago
Great instructable! I've been thinking about doing one similar to this, but you beat me to it! I love old machines as well. My old faithful is a Bernina Record (just like yours shown). ...But I've recently picked up both a Pfaff 130 and a Pfaff 360, which will provide a little competition to the Bernina. I've also got a sweet 1917 Singer 115. The next one on my personal wishlist is a Necchi Supernova. The total cost for all of my old machines thus far has only been $60! That's due to a little luck, and just keeping my eyes open. Again, great instructable.
MargueritaM (author)  seamster5 years ago
Wow! You get the Blue Ribbon for getting great deals on sewing machines. I am so glad to meet so many sewing enthusiasts who know the value of these great treasures. I've never sewn on a Necchi but I bet it's nice! Good luck on your search and thank you for your story! Marguerita
Grady5 years ago
The fabric stores can be a blessing in all this. The ladies loves to share their knowledge & I can learn faster in talking with them than I can out of a book. The flea markets are a great place to look for these, also. I have 2; the last one I got was from the neighbor across the street, who had set it out by the road. I'm glad I spotted it when I did, cause there was a couple ladies who sure didn't like my beating them to it.
MargueritaM (author)  Grady5 years ago
Hi Grady, Great Catch!! Yes, they do get thrown away and it's such a loss :( Good for you learning every way that you can! I forgot about Flea Markets - - THANK YOU!! Happy Sewing, Marguerita
kevinhannan5 years ago
This is one of my fave 'ibles going. Very well done ;-) I've always thought, even as a kid, that all school-kids should be taught how to use a sewing machine - they are as essential as any art and craft subject (food, econ, art, wood/metal work and so on) but for some reason it doesn't seem to happen. I'd love to have my own sewing machine and this 'ible has given me the confidence to start looking. Thanks!
MargueritaM (author)  kevinhannan5 years ago
Hi Kevin, Thank you so much! I learned to sew in grade school (it was mandatory for girls way back then!) and I appreciated the skills I mastered in that class. I wish it were at least optional for all kids these days! I am having some fun teaching kids in my town. There are lots of great instructables about sewing and some really good videos out there too :) Have fun, Marguerita
Toxictom5 years ago
I took my Singer Athena (their first computerized machine) into a repair shop because it was bunching up the bobbin thread. I made the mistake of telling them I'd bought it at a thrift store for $7.50. The said they could tune it up and make a couple repairs for $380 or just do me a favor and toss it in the dumpster for me. I declined both and took it to a different shop. This time I didn't tell them what I paid for it. The tune up was $60 and once again it runs like a top. I found out I was simply using too thick of thread sewing heavyweight PVC fabric for a skin-on-frame kayak. It sewed the PVC just fine with a lighter thread. These old machines are pretty sturdy and will last forever with moderate usage and care.
hmmm... so it's not only garages that rip us off, eh? It's a lesson well learning for all of us.
MargueritaM (author)  Toxictom5 years ago
Wow, I've sewn clothes for kayaking and made pogies out of a coated denier but never sewn the skin for a kayak! That's awesome :) I love threads and I love experimenting with different weights of threads. I also teach machine quilting with lots of different threads and one thing that I always teach is that some machines "like" some threads and other machines won't tolerate the same thread. It takes some experimenting to find the right threads for each machine, but it is well worth it as you found out too :) Thanks so much for bringing that up! Marguerita
Proclaim not all thou knowest, all thou hast, nor all thou canst. Benjamin Franklin
Stew25 years ago
Wow! Thats an awesome instructible :) You actually have me wanting a sewing machine! (single dad tradesman kinda guy...) Very well written.
MargueritaM (author)  Stew25 years ago
Thanks so much for your nice remarks! Lots of guys sew and dads love fixing up old machines and teaching kids how those machines work ..... hint, hint. Now you will start seeing all the things in your life that could use a little sewing and soon you will go out and get one of these machines :) Best wishes, Marguerita
jaydeechick5 years ago
Great instructable. I purchased my first sewing machine 8 years ago in Darwin (Australia) for $75. Back then, that was alot of money for me (poor student years!), but it is one of the best investments I've ever made. I believe it is a 1982 model sewing machine (nothing computerised,and looks to be in the same vintage as your pics), has a solid metal body and goes like a workhorse. I've had family members offer to buy me a new machine, but I just don't want one. Over the years I've had 'the old girl" serviced about 5 times at a cost of $50/ service. The way I figure it, I've spent a total of about $325 over the past 8 years and I have no intention of getting rid of her. Yes she may be a really heavy beastie of a thing, but she hasn't let me down yet. The poor girl even survived 3 years of owning a fancy dress shop, where I did all my own sewing. I actually bought a second machine as an emergency back up, but ended up leaving one at the shop and one at home, so I didn't have to lug a machine back and forth. This second machine I bought for $5 from a guy bought it from the op shop for $2, but it didn't have a cord. A fair deal considering it bought it into my shop and I didn't have to pick it up from him. $15 later on ebay and I had a new cord/pedal. This machine is also a golden oldie, but has never ever skipped a beat. The other advantage of owning older machines, is that I'm not scared to teach people on it. I know it won't break. I actually dropped my second machine one day (thankfully I missed my toes). I thought that might have killed it, but when I set it up again, it just kept on going. I've used my machines to sew all sorts of things, some of which would probably destroy a new machine, but the old girl just takes it all in her stride. Cheers, and thanks for the instructable
MargueritaM (author)  jaydeechick5 years ago
What a great investment you made! Teaching is the exact reason that I started collecting these old beauties. I taught a couple of tween girls (at my local library) how a sewing machine works and to not be afraid of the dials and settings and it was **SO** rewarding to see the amazement and smiles on their faces. In an hour they new enough to start sewing! Thanks so much for sharing your story with us :) Marguerita
You are so right, old machine are a treasure! I rediscovered sewing and I am sewing my bags and purses on an old Singer 301A (listed on homesteadcat.etsy.com or photostream on flickr at http://flickr.com/gp/homesteadcat/pcpE59 ). The stitches are beautiful and there are no bells and whistles to this machine, just old reliable and basic. Since my "new" hobby, I have acquired several more machines - all Singer 301's and a Singer 500 (Rocketeer). Nothing beats these fine machines. My dream is to be able to buy a mint 301 at a yard sale and give it a good home.
MargueritaM (author)  homesteadcat5 years ago
Ohhhh, I dream of finding a Singer featherweight at a garage sale or second hand shop (not likely, but hey, I can dream!!). LOL Once you get started collecting these lovelies it is hard to stop :) Thanks so much for sharing you story! Marguerita
hammerhead5 years ago
My dad has the exact same Bernina machine in the top image. He got it for cheap in a second hand shop I was working at. The funny thing is that the arm on the top where you change the decorative patterns had never been used! Upon lifting the lid the small stopper screw used during transport from the manufacturer was still in place and the gears were shining like new. While working in mentioned second hand shop we were often visited by women asking for one of these old machines, most often the green Husqvarna machines from the fifties. They often told me that they or their husbands had bought machines costing $1000 and up, yet they preferred the old ones since they're often more heavy, robust and powerful.
MargueritaM (author)  hammerhead5 years ago
I just got my hands on that Bernina and am SO looking forward to cleaning her up, oiling her well and listening to her hum! I didn't know about the stopper screw - - thank you so much for that info! I know a lot of quilters who love their old machines too! Thanks so very much, Marguerita