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Forum > Sewing Machines > Why own or consider a vintage machine? ( Moderated by Sharon1952, EleanorSews)

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Why own or consider a vintage machine?
Your opinions please


Member since 12/31/69
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Date: 8/4/06 8:07 AM

I was wondering...(consider this an informal survey)

For those of you that own a vintage (pre-1980 /-) sewing machine why do you own it, and why do you keep it?

For those of you that have considered a vintage machine, what would inspire you to go ahead and buy one?

Thanks,

JennyG

sabrinatf

sabrinatf
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Date: 8/4/06 8:46 AM

I orginally pursued owning a vintage (read mechanical all metal) machine because I wanted to do upholestry weight stuff and home cecor and even though my modern computerized machine handles it fine...I was hesitant to use it for those types of sewing. A friend owned a mechnical Bernina (1008) that she used for her small home sewing biz and raved about mechnicals. Since I already owned a spendy machine...I kept my eye out for an affordable less pedigreed vintage machine. I scored a singer 503 and kennie 1030 on my first try. Those got me hooked. Then I just fell in love with how wonderfully they sewed and the simplicity, power and the craftmanship of them. While I appreciate the convienence of my computerized machine...if I had it to do over, I'd save my money and get a good reliable vintage machine...after all I wouldn't have known what I was missing (auto stop, needle up/down. autothreading...countless decor stitches). I find that I only use the ss and zz stitches...although since I've been sewing some dipes I do like the 3 step zz too...but still I don't need the 700 stitches my machine can do. I was swayed by the glamour...not by what I really needed, which is a good simple to use machine that can handle all kinds of fabrics.

------
Umm...I was told there would be no math on this exam.
http://mylilsliceofpie.blogspot.com/

Janie Viers
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Janie Viers  Friend of PR
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Date: 8/4/06 9:05 AM

Vintage machines are totally made of metal and wear like iron. They were originally conceived and made to actually be repaired! Unlike new machines that are basically disposable!

I sew exclusively on a 30 year old Kenmore and have bought 4 of a similar model as back up and just in case machines. I do have a couple of newer ones, but they grumble when I make anything that has more than four layers of cotton.

------
JanieV

rhoda bicycle

rhoda bicycle
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Date: 8/4/06 9:19 AM

I bought a Free Westinghouse ALB Rotary on eBay (dangerous addiction, eBay) because the seller described it as a 1920s machine and I thought it looked so much more sophisticated than all the other machines of that era. I've since found out it's more likely from the 40s, but after cleaning it up and having it tuned and buying some of the special short needles for it, I guess I might as well keep it.
It has a very large open harp and the light bulb is positioned to light the area perfectly. In fact, the only modern machine I've seen with such good lighting is one of the new Husvarnas with the LEDs running under the harp. When I step away from it after using it I'm always surprised at how small it is - with all that space it seems so much bigger than a modern machine when in use. It's straight stitch only, and very straight. I must admit, I didn't get why people buy straight stitch machines, but even the best multistitch machines don't come close to being as straight.
It's my little bit of history, not something I'm going to use a lot. What I have used it on - heavy canvass - it purred through without hesitation. I like to take it out and play around with the Griest attachments now and then.
If you want a machine for a lot of daily heavy use, it's probably better to get something like that Bernina 950 that was recently reviewed, but as a link to the past that can do the occasional bit of really heavy sewing, vintage machines can be fun to have.

AliceM
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Date: 8/4/06 9:28 AM

I have a Singer from the early 70's. I keep it for purely sentimental reasons. It belonged to my beloved grandmother and it was the machine that my daughters and me all learned to sew on. It doesn't get used much since I have aquired 3 Janomes (great mechanical one, TOL sewing embroidery combo and a serger) but once in a while I will get it out just for fun or to do something that needs some speed. There is high speed switch on this baby that positively flies!

Mufffet
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Date: 8/4/06 10:09 AM

Jenny, I own and keep a "vintage" machine because I bought it new and I myself am apparently "vintage!" :)

I moved from the 1971 era Kenmore to the Pfaff 1222E in 1977. It is still in great shape - I keep my machines covered all the time with cotton covers I made from pillow cases, and I keep the bobbin area clean and oiled. So I never even thought about another machine until I began to read PR! I had no idea how sewing had gotten to be a niche pastime with embroidery etc. When I bought a machine for son I got a vintage New Home 884 (one went last week on ebay for $50!) which is a sweet machine. Then I decided it wasn't a good idea because there was no ON-OFF switch, so I kept it...haha. I recently sold it to a friend.

I see the advantages in the new Kenmore I have for sure - I think the bigger feed dogs, the larger pressure foot and the stitch ease are a step forward. And i can actually lift the thing, whereas my Pfaff and I always have fun lugging along if I have to take her in the case to the sewing tech (which has only been three times in her life).

So - yea...a quality vintage machine is a good thing. But on the other hand, there are parts to be considered. As the years go by some parts may be harded to get - although Singer parts seem to be easily acquired.

------
"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
--Dalai Lama

I have sewing machines

sewfrequent

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Date: 8/4/06 10:32 AM

I second everything Sabrina said. I have a long-standing love affair with machines of all types but once I experienced a 401 model Singer several years ago, nothing compared to it! I did sell that machine and missed it so much I later bought a 500. I love the all-metal aspect of it and the perfect straight-stitch, bit more power (it seems), excellent lighting, speed, and the narrow feed-dogs seems to give me lots more control so I can be more precise. I also appreciate the craftsmanship bc nothing about these machines looks, sounds or feels "cheap". They rarely break and if they do, it is easy and inexpensive (comparitively) to fix. And, I think they are truly beautiful in an aesthetic sense. Also they don't lose their value. It is fun to collect bits and such to out-fit these machines. The buttonholers make better bh's than the computerized machines. I know people who have an old Singer they use strictly for bh's. And, I happen to love the tiny delicate nature of the decorative stitches. They look more tailored in a sweet kind of way vs 3/4 of the ones on newer machines that are wider and more obvious. In the case of the straight-stitch only models--many of those have huge area under the harp and there is not a straighter, more perfect stitch to be found. Not only that, but they're sooo much quieter! I now have a 301 and a 500 and wouldn't part with either of them. I also have other newer and more expensive machines that I also like but I think I enjoy the experience of sewing more on the old ones. Admittedly, the computerized perks of needle up/down and thread-cutters, etc is something to love about the new ones, too!

popoagiesmiles
popoagiesmiles
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Date: 8/4/06 11:12 AM

Where I used to live, in a monied area, my neighbor had over one hundred vintage machines displayed artfully in a long windowed hallway (with specialized exotic landscaping outside to complete the effect). She had them because she could. Don't even ask me about her sewing suite. It was to die for.

------
"puhPOjhu"--a river that sinks into a mountain with fury and winds around underground for miles before emerging in calm down the road...

kathi s

kathi s
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Date: 8/4/06 11:47 AM

I kept my old Elna airtronic when I upgraded to a Viking Rose because it still sews great and is small and portable. I also would have gotten zip for it on a trade so decided to keep it as a "spare".

tlmck3
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tlmck3
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Date: 8/4/06 11:57 AM

I bought my first vintage machine- a 1964 Singer 348--because I hadn't had a machine for ages, it was at the thrift store marked down to $10.00, I could figure out how it worked just by looking at it, it was spotlessly clean, and it was baby blue.

I took it to a local sewing machine shop to get it the once over, and they sold me a new Special ON SALE, Singer--still a basic machine, but I didn't have high hopes for the $10.00 wonder and I had a bonus check in my pocket. The new machine cost $200.00.

I took them both home and put the $10.00 machine in the closet for a couple of years and used the new one. I hadn't sewn regularly for years and years, so I figured the diffculty I had with the new Singer was user error. The machine was a nightmare. Threading was dumb--no other word for one of the threading points. Straight seams were a constant fight. The tension was never right. I ripped more than I sewed.

One day, I ran across a few of the embroidery cams for the old Singer and pulled it out of the closet to play with them. I quickly realized how much easier EVERYTHING was on that old machine. How much nicer the stitches were, how easily it sewed a perfectly straight seam without bunchy stitches and the bobbin race getting hopelessly tangled with thread. In looking for more of the embroidery cams on Ebay, I noticed how cheaply I could find any kind of presser foot my little heart desired for this old beauty. I found the Vintage Singer user groups on Ebay, and got any question I had answered promptly and expertly. I learned that I could take the thing apart and do the maintenance and cleaning myself. It's such an elegant and logical machine inside.

Since then, I have accumulated 2 other vintage machines. The most expensive one was $38.00 and was, in its day, a top of the line Viking that had all of its embroidery cams in it's case. The others were all under $20.00. One is a tiny Kenmore that weighs 13 lbs, packs up into an elegant little hard-sided case that is the size of a small electric typewriter, and sews a perfectly straight seam with amazing power. It's also very sleek and elegant looking--very sexy, very Japanese. It is my "class" machine.

The third is a Touch and Sew that I purchased because I had a full set of embroidery cams for it, and manual that were, mistakenly, as it turned out, in the box with that first $10.00 machine. I'd also been lusting after a 401 or a 501 slant needle machine for some time and had accumulated several feet for a slant needle machine in mixed lots of stuff picked up on Ebay or at junk stores. The T&S machines were the mostly unsatisfactory upgrades from the Rocketeers of the 50s. The machine itself was only another $10.00. It was a little trashed-looking, but it worked. I figured I'd take it home and play a bit. Once I got it apart and cleaned up, it was actually in really good shape and has a few nice features none of the other machines do. As it turns out, it is a very early Touch and Sew model--and one that people who use old machines actually say good things about, so I got lucky.

Those three old machines are the ones I use. Actually, that first $10.00 Singer is such an easy, old friend, it;s the one that is usually threaded and ready to go. The $200.00 "new" Singer is in the basement storage bin until I find a place to donate it to where it might be minimally useful--a womens' shelter, I'm thinking it could handle the responsibility of the occasional emergency repair of RTW.

I'm still on a quest for a 501. I'd settle for a 401. I also have a set of really cute embroidery cams for a 1970s Kenmore model (they cost $2.00 at a thrift store...I couldn't resist) so I have an eye out for one of those, too, so I can sew a line of little ducklings or twining ivy on SOMETHING someday...

------
I am going for a level of perfection that is only mine... Most of the pleasure is in getting that last little piece perfect...Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just keep showing up and doing the work.

Chuck Close, painter, printmaker, photographer

Hope has two lovely daughters: Anger and Courage

St. Augustine

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