Using & Purchasing an Older Sewing Machine

on June 17 | in Sewing + Quilting Tips, Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 216 Comments

Irene from Mushroom Villagers (she’s also our forum hostess!) has an older machine she loves. Stella is a Singer and after reading all about her we asked Irene to give us a little more information about purchasing older machines.

From Irene: Chances are, while bringing in your machine for service, you’ve seen old sewing machines in the back of the repair center. Maybe you have wondered does anyone actually use them? Not only do people use them, but also there are many enthusiasts that consider them their primary machine.

There are many benefits to having an older machine, but there are also things you need to keep in mind before purchasing. I will be focusing this article on machines 60 to 70 years old made around the 1950’s.

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Classic appearance: Most of these great machines were black or came in other neutral colors such as white or tan. Their simple curves and bare exterior make it appealing to a wide range of styles.

  • Look for a machine that has most if not all it’s enamel or coating intact.
  • Make sure there’s a pressure foot and power cord, but also look at the housing for the light fixture and check for any missing parts. (These tend to be a little spendy if they need to be replaced.)
  • Try to inspect any exposed wires. Look for cracks, melted coating or unusual wear. Wiring can be replaced for a moderate cost and should not deter you from buying a machine. Just be sure to replace any bad wiring before sewing with the machine!

Solid metal construction: Good machines will have very little or no plastic parts. You will not find computer screens or tons of buttons for this or that feature. Instead, you will find solid parts that fit together well and have been working well for generations. Most of these old machines sit on hinges which allow you to tip the machine back to view the underside.

  • Look for badly rusted bolts or rods. These could be cleaned, but may take more time than you might want to spend.
  • Turn the hand wheel to see how freely everything moves. Look at the feed dogs, needle shaft and take up lever. These should all move with a turn of the wheel.

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Beautiful, consistent stitches: This is the number one feature that drew me in and continues to draw me to using my old machine daily. The consistency of stitches regardless of type or thickness of fabric is amazing, but this is also where you need to be aware of the sewing features you require.

  • If you need to be able to change the position of your needle, like fancy stitches or memory keys, then a 60 year-old machine may not be what you need. I find that I do not need these features and have gladly exchanged them for reliable stitches and more power.
  • These old machines typically sew only a straight stitch or a very limited number of decorative stitches which require a little more work to set up than a push of a button.
  • On the other hand, these old machines typically came with the same feet you find when purchasing a new machine today. These include: zipper foot, ruffler and gathering feet, hemming foot, binding foot and zipper foot. More feet are usually easy to find and are inexpensive.

Ease of use: Since these machines do not have computer screens or a multitude of stitch functions, there’s not much to figure out. Threading is a simple process with just a few hooks and guides to run through. Bobbins, pressure feet, tension and stitch length adjustments are similar to modern machines and do not require much attention. Things you may want to consider are:

  • Harp– the space under the arm of a machine. If you are a quilter, you may want a larger harp than if you only plan to sewing clothing.
  • Tension knob, stitch length and reverse lever positions. You may want to be sure you can read the numbers on the tension knob and stitch length plate. Also, check to see if the reverse lever is easy to maneuver.
  • Hook orientation. Surprisingly, you can choose between a drop-in or vertical bobbin housing. Be sure to slide open the throat plate to be sure it’s the type of hook you prefer.

Simple maintenance & service: Now to the last and I think most important area when considering a classic machine. Before considering an older machine, you may want to decide how much personal time you want to spend on your sewing machine.

  • If you need another hobby, buying a classic machine and refurbishing it yourself is something you can easily learn. Since there aren’t any computer screens or electronics to worry about, just about anyone can take one of these machines apart, clean it and return it to excellent working condition.
  • If another hobby isn’t an option, buying a refurbished machine is a great alternative. Be sure to check that the wiring, lighting, and motor have been thoroughly inspected, and cleaned or replaced if needed.
  • Once you have your classic machine cleaned and serviced, the only servicing recommended is daily oiling. Since these machines are all metal, the parts need to be oiled just about everyday. The more vigilant you are, the better for your machine.

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That’s it! This is the true beauty of these great classics. There’s not much to them so not much can go wrong. They have been sewing strong for over 50 years and I’m willing to bet that they will continue to do so for another 50.

After considering all these factors, I recommend that you take a second look at these classic sewing machines that next time you pass one at a thrift store, garage sale or your local sewing machine dealer.

Join us for Sewing Machine Month! Enter to win this week’s prize package from our Sewing Machine Month sponsor: Husqvarna/Viking. Comment on any post this week for your chance to win the General Sewing Package (over $150 retail value), or you might win one of four $20 gift certificates to Sew,Mama,Sew!.
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216 Responses to Using & Purchasing an Older Sewing Machine

  1. Faye says:

    oh i love my old singer. its a 1922 singer model 128 and i love it. its is a straight stitch with a shuttle bobbin that took some gettin gused to but its so reliable. and its beautiful. the shock factor alone is worth it! and i got it for 15$ you cant beat that.

    love my machine and cant wait to use it again and again. I do have a WHITE machine now that i do most of my stuff on. i love sewing. and i just made my son some pj pants that are oh too cute

  2. Stephanie says:

    I have a couple 15-91’s I recently purchased and want to make sure the motor wiring is OK or refurbish it myself. Anyone have any intstructions for wiring the motor?

  3. Vicki says:

    I have a wonderful Singer vintage machine that I use for my backup. It really hesitates when I push the petal button. Does anyone know if that is a motor problem or a petal problem? The stitching is wonderful! It sew like new in that respect. Thanks for any help you may be able to offer!

  4. Debbie says:

    my boyfriend just brought me a older kenmore sewing machine at a estate sale. But i’m having a hard time trying to understand how to stop the fraying of the material, because these older machines don’t have zigzag. thanking you in advanced for the help.

  5. We absolutely love vintage sewing machines and appreciate your informative article. Thank you! Our family heritage has been sewing and tailoring since the mid-1800’s and we are firm believers in these machines. While we do have them available on Ebay and get a lot of response, it is nice to know so many people are out there that really appreciate these machines. Keep up the good work!

  6. rose schoff says:

    I’ve just got a older tan cabinet sewing machine but no book.I think this is the no.2142 sears kenmore on the machine ,I don’t know what kind of needs or how to thread it. rose schoff

  7. Gina Hughes says:

    I have a 1960f’s Touch and Sew my grandmother purchased at California State Fair. It is in a console table that it came with, great condition, sews well but need the room so I want to get a smaller Singer. I have original instruction booklet and the attachments.

    Any suggestions for suggested sales price?

  8. Vivian says:

    My grandmother’s machine is still going strong, she’s used it faitfully for over 50 years…I hope my machine stands the test of time.

    Thank you for all the wonderful information, I can share with my grandma.

  9. Gumbo Lily says:

    I have a Singer treadle sewing machine that I would love to get into active duty.


  10. Heather L says:

    What a lovely concise article. Thank you! I have a ’50s Viking 21a that I just love.

  11. Kate says:

    I had my grandmother’s singer featherweight from the 40’s until it was stolen from my car a few years ago. My new modern machine has a lot more bells and whistles. But, I still miss that old gal every time I sew!

  12. Kelly says:

    I just picked up an old machine (that I think looks like the one pictured above) in a curved wood box at a yard sale. It’s locked and I don’t have the key. Any ideas?

  13. Jolynn Lee says:

    I found an old singer sewing machine out in my barn not long after we moved in to our house. I have been wondering what to do with it. I think I will haul it inside, clean it up, and see if I can make it work!

  14. Bethany says:

    Thanks for the great inspiration! I recently purchased a machine that I think was made in the 1940s. The cord really needs to be replaced as it is disintegrating, but it is an absolutely beautiful machine! It has a knee lever to sew and is just a neat machine. I hope to be able to use it soon. Here is a link to my new beauty:

  15. kern says:

    I love the looks of these vintage machines. They have such beautiful lines.

  16. April says:

    I’ve got a Vintage. It’s gorgeous, runs like a dream, but I can’t find any needles to go with it, so it’s really rendered useless.

    Very sad, really, Breaks my heart.

    Anyone that knows where to get New Home CC 1221, 40F1 oe 38Y1 needles, I’m your girl…

  17. Lisa says:

    I have been really interested in sewing on a Singer Featherweight. Thanks for all the information on their use and care. I hope to pick up the next one I find at a reasonable price. –Lisa

  18. Michelle W says:

    I volunteer at a no kill shelter and we just had our annual garage sale. Low and behold, a sewing machine was donated and I decided to buy it and take it home. I have a Vicking 980 which I purchased in 1984. The machine I bought at our garage sale is a Singer 237. I plugged it in and it works like a dream — all for $10. I’m so very happy — it’s great to have a new mwmber to the family.

  19. Chase says:

    I was lucky enough to purchase a mid-1960`s two-tone seafoam green machine made by White, attached to the original fold-down desk and it still had ever part and accessory for five dollars at a local antique store. After reading this I know I got the deal of the century because it is in such great condition, though I do need to get it tuned-up. Thanks for this article!

  20. Holly says:

    Do you know anything about the history of Mayflower treadle sewing machines? I got one in great mechanical (though not its cabinet) shape a few years ago at a rummage sale, but haven’t been able to find out any information about it online. I’d never heard of this brand before seeing my machine… Also, do you know where treadle belts can be purchased? Thanks for any help you might have πŸ™‚

  21. Victoria says:

    I’m straight terrified to touch my grandmother’s aging sewing machine, I’ve never even seen her use it. But this is almost enough to make me ask for a date night with it. I think I need more time to get accustomed to the idea. πŸ™‚

  22. Molly B. says:

    I’m going to start looking for old machines at flea markets and yard sales now. Thanks for the inspiring post!

  23. Cassie says:

    I would love one of these older machines. Maybe one day I will have to find one and do the work to keep it up and going well. This article helped relieve some of that fear.

  24. fert says:

    Oh man, that’s pretty much my sewing experience so far. My Pfaff was my grandmother’s. It’s supposed to be portable (the case has faux wood) but is made of cast-iron and enamelized. I guess sumo wreastlers and wrestlers can carry it around.

  25. bess says:

    great info – thanks!!

  26. Winsome says:

    Loved the article, still hve my old singer that i was given nearly 30 years ago. have’nt used it for year but you’ve inpired me to get it out and see if it still works. It brings back pleasant memories of making my 2 daughters clothes on it when they were little, also my sister gave it o me so i could never part with it.
    best wishes W. x

  27. Rose P in AZ says:

    Hmm, just saw a black Universal machine in the thrift shop. The cord didn’t look in too good condition. Wow, are those older machines heavy too. Hmm.

  28. AllieK says:

    Love this post!!

  29. Mary on Lake Pulaski says:

    Maybe I should try using that vintage machine that I have.

  30. Ann says:

    Thanks for the post! It so inspired me that I checked out craigslist and found a beautiful White Rotary from 1928 that had been in a family for three generations – well used and cared for. The cabinet is beautiful and it has the original manual and all the original accessories – boxes of feet a big button holer, bobbins, needles in little wooden tubes and original screw drivers and brush. A great birthday present for myself.

  31. Ashley says:

    My Mom recently bought a Singer Featherweight on Ebay. I will definitely be sending her a link to this article. Thanks!

  32. Anne says:

    My mom has a machine that looks a lot like that in her basement. Maybe, I’ll bring it home the next time we visit.

  33. Lindsey says:

    i LOVE old sewing machines like that! i’m constantly scouring craigslist for them!!

  34. Kim Henslee says:

    Wow! Thanks so much! I’m very drawn to these older models, but feel a bit inept to take them apart and get/keep them in working condition! My mother-in-law has an old antique that needs to be powered by a foot pedal. I’m trying not to sound too over eager to one day inherit it, and who knows? maybe even be able to use for more than a cool table with family history!
    thanks again!

  35. lena says:

    This is a fantastic article. I love the vintage machines and actually collect, service and sell them. they are true workhorses and with a little love and maintenance will last forever. The 15-91 is a beauty!

  36. georgia says:

    I think the phrase, “They don’t make them like they used to,” really applies to sewing machines as well. Plus they’re so cool looking!!

  37. michele m says:

    i have an old 1949 singer–i just wish it worked–needs some parts but maybe someday…….

  38. Jennifer says:

    I dig it!

  39. Christina says:

    I was given a Singer Fashion Mate. I’m not 100% when it was made, but I think the 60’s or so. It only has 2 stitches, straight and zig-zag. It still works quite well. Definitely not a portable machine though. My poor hubby moves it for me whenever I decide to change its resting spot.

  40. By LuLu says:

    Wow! I just love the vintage machine! Awesome!! They just some how make homemade stuff feel more homemade!

  41. Mandy says:

    Thanks Irene! I’ve been coveting an older machine model for awhile now, but have hesitated from lack of information. Now I can browse with a little more confidence. πŸ˜€

  42. Wow! I walked past an old singer at the market last week, wondering what it would be like to sew with one. I wouldn’t have known where to start on the maintainance and what to look for. Now thanks to your post and all the information I will look to see if it is still there on Sunday. If it is ok I may go for it. Thanks so much. x

  43. Jenni says:

    My mom still uses her mom’s old sewing machine that’s older than she is! And sometimes I think it works better than my newer (still 15 years old) one!

  44. Kristin says:

    I have always loved the look of these older machines but wondered if they were functional. Thank you for the great information.

  45. Beth G. says:

    I’m lucky to be the recipient of my grandmother’s featherweight. I remember sewing quilt blocks on this machine when I was a child. Unfortunately, I haven’t been sewing very much since I’ve gotten it. My friend is borrowing my featherweight right now, her’s is getting repaired. I’m happy to report that it’s sewing like a dream. I can’t wait to get it back to start using it!

  46. Lorajean says:

    I am on a craigslist hunt to find a feather weight!

  47. Alexandra says:

    My grandmother has an old singer, that will be mine one day. Unfortunately it’s not functionning very well any more. I hope we will be able to have it refurbished one day.

  48. Anna G says:

    I have an old, black singer that was a gift from my Mother-in-law. I have used it for years and it is reliable and sews beautifully. However, lately I have been thinking that maybe I should have a newer machine with more fancy features like the ones in the blogs and magazines. This article made me realize that my trusty singer is a dear old friend that I should appreciate! Thanks, Anna Golden

  49. Yay! I’m so thrilled that you shared such great advice. I have a gorgous Singer similar to the one pictured, but with more beautiful detailing. I got it at a garage sale for free. I have been wondering how and where to get it serviced, and if it is worth spending the money. I guess it is worth it if it lasts me 50 more years πŸ™‚ Thanks so much!

  50. Judy Marteney says:

    It is heartening to know that others have a love-affair with an “old machine”.
    Mine was purchased in 1956 and it is one of those spirited, reliable, wonderful machines that I cannot imagine being without! No bells, whistles or gimicks, just good plain sewing!
    Thank you! I just wonder how many are in use today.

  51. Julie says:

    I have three old Singers sitting at home. I really should pull one of them out again. I got frustrated about not having a zigzag stitch. Now that I’m a better sewer, it’s not as much of an issue.

  52. Sarah says:

    I really enjoy the older machines. I am sure the computerized machine have many benefits, but I think i will stick with the older machines for now. Thanks for the great info on purchasing.

  53. Melissa says:

    I have my grandmother’s ancient Singer– probaby 60 years young? Not sure. It drives me nuts at times, but it’s the machine I haul out whenever I have heavy-duty sewing, which rattles my newer machine practically to bits.

  54. I’ve just got one off freecycle. It took me a few weeks to work up the courage to see if it still worked, but when I plugged it in, it purred. Now I just need to get up the courage to try it out…

  55. Megan says:

    I use an older sewing machine, from the 60-70’s. I got it from an estate sale right after I was married. I enjoy using it and love that it is easy to use. The machine has the capability for fancy stiches, but it didn’t come with those accesories, and finding them has proven to be impossible!

    Thanks for the great article!

  56. suesue says:

    i have a small portable singer with a case that my cousin gave me in high school about 30 years ago. it sews beautifully and i’ve had it worked on only once. i’d like to find some more bobbins for it. i guess i’d need to find the model number and look online. i do love it!!

  57. Helena says:

    Lots of good info. I know would love to own one. Thanks.

  58. MaryAnn says:

    Thanks for the article. The older machines have such a solid humming sound when you sew with them.

  59. sonja says:

    I’ve seen several older machines but were thought they wouldn’t be of any use really…definately will have a closer look now

  60. Grace says:

    I recieved a sewing machine form my Great Grandmother like the one pictured above but not a Singer. I dont plan on selling it because i absolutely love it. Can anyone tell me what kind it is?

    This is the link to my blog with the pictures:

  61. sarah says:

    I’m beginning to realize, the more I read these types of posts, the importance of power. My Singer maching – only a year old or so – is wonderful, but I think I could use more power to get through the heavier material or just more layers.

  62. Mary says:

    I hope to purchase a featherweight machine one day. *drools*

  63. Kim D. says:

    Love these old singer sewing machines. I purchased a Featherweight 221 this past winter and it sews beautiful straight even stitches. I recently sewed a tote bag and couldn’t get the layers of fabric through my newer machines so I used the featherweight. It’s a real workhorse.

  64. Maria says:

    Interesting! I was just planning to try a similar machine as in this post πŸ™‚

  65. Darlene says:

    Thanks for all the info. Very nice option.

  66. Amy says:

    I often see older sewing machines at the local thrift stores and was too nervous to even think about buying them because I didn’t know what to look for. Now, I think I’ve learned enough to actually consider one. Thanks so much!

  67. Stacy says:

    Very informative. Thanks for the information!

  68. Ammie says:

    This is beautiful! I imagine that if I ever found an antique machine (at aprice I could afford), I’d have a hard time remembering how to check it out. I’d be so tickled just to find it! Thanks for the post!

  69. Serena says:

    Thanks Irene! My GMIL gave me several vintage machines and I’ll be frank- I’m still petrified to touch them. lol πŸ˜€ Great article!

  70. Kara says:

    I have an old machine like this just sitting in my hallway, it was my husbands grandmothers. I think of it as a decoration, but I have never thought to actually try sewing with it. Maybe I will have to turn it on and see if it works!

  71. Ananda says:

    My MIL has an antique sewing machine stored away in her extra bedroom collecting dust and storing clutter. I may ask her if I can get it out and fiddle with it. Thanks for the information on older machines.

  72. Polly Lacy says:

    I’d like to recommend the vintage Italian Necchis! Someone mentioned the BU Supernova–I have a Supernova Ultra I bought in 1959 and it’s still purring away….AND it uses cams to make decorative stitches, 3 needle positions, zz, etc. so you CAN get all this in a vintage machine. These are finely machined, all metal and wonderful machines. The Supernova models date to the mid 50’s and there are other models, with and without cams. Earlier 50’s models, e.g. the BU Nova, BU Mira, are heavy duty, zz with 3 needle positions, no interior cams but the Mira has the Wonder Wheel that can be attached with several cams for dec stitches. Sorry to rant on but these are my very favorite machines! I have a Necchi list on Yahoo if you’d like to come learn more. We have several SewMama members there already and would welcome you! It’s at:

  73. Becky says:

    I stumbled across an old machine at Goodwill a few months back for only $30 bucks. I keep kicking myself for not purchasing it that day. By the time I convinced myself I had to have it, it was of course gone. =(

  74. Suzette says:

    I can’t agree more. My vintage Singer is worth two new machines, because it just goes. Ten layers of fabric? No Problem.

  75. anne says:

    I meant… less choices leads to LESS frustration…if I had typed that on my typewriter I would have caught it!

  76. anne says:

    I love the old machines, and I love to pass them on to new sewers…less choices leads to frustration with stitching for those who are just beginning. Sometimes it is hard to choose which I love more…the machine or the cabinet!

  77. Lisa says:

    I love my old machine. I found it through a local classifieds website. I did have to purchase a new foot pedal as it gave out during it’s first use, but I found new ones available online. I also purchased a walking foot and free motion foot for it on ebay. I love the larger harp – which is the main reason I bought it.

    Any suggestions on how to find a good repairman for older machines since I don’t need another hobby?

  78. CarylAnne McCain says:

    hello, my name is CarylAnne. I have been using my treadles-Singer and Pfaff, for quite a few years now. I have one or two machines with tails (electrical), but love the smooth operation and control one gets with a treadle. not all treadles are straight-stitch only. One can get one of those tough class 15 Japanese made machines with zig-zag and mount them in a treadle cabinet, if they don’t want to keep them electric. This is what non-electric Amish women do.
    as for parts for older machines, bobbins, manuals, etc. my good friend in Minnesota sells a great variety. please e-mail me off list for her information.

    my e-mail:

    I used to work in a sewing shop and when I’d bring my hand crank machines in to service (myself), I’d laugh and say “if the power went out, I’d be the only one who could sew, he, he, he. ”

    For anyone wanting awesome detailed info about treadles, is a great site.


  79. Rebecca says:

    I just love the look of vintage machines and hope to have a sewing space big enough one day to display a few.

  80. Lynne D says:

    I have just acquired a Bernina 730 c. 1965 and need to get it serviced, but can’t wait to try it.

  81. Sara says:

    Some great tips for finding old sewing machines. I wish my mom had kept her old sewing machine from the 50’s (yeah, my mom is that old!).

  82. breande says:

    I am lucky enough to be the granddaughter who inherited my grandmother’s old Singer. It has seen many years of sewing school clothes, quilts, and patching and hemming denim overalls and jeans. I cherish it.

  83. annie says:

    I’ve been sewing on antique, non-electric sewing machines for 18 years now. I’m currently piecing a quilt on a 1930s Singer treadle and will FM quilt it on the same machine. I’ve even had a custom quilting business for sewing machine collectors who want their quilts finished on a treadle sewing machine. I learned to sew on a Singer 15 just like Irene’s and now my daughter has it.

  84. Ann Dilcher says:

    Great article. Yes – I think a classic would be perfect for me. I don’t like my new plastic machine that well.

  85. May says:

    I have long been fascinated with the older sewing machines. I grew up around old manual ones.. MANUAL.. and I still find a strong attraction to the smooth, sturdy feeling of their treadle action. I wouldn’t mind owning an old classic at some point, and the tips in the post will be handy. Thank you!

  86. Debra says:

    Love this post.I have an older one my husband bought for an Aniversary gift. I had been admiring it at a shop and then owned it. I can not find any info on the brand. It is just a decoration in my sewing studio at this point, but I love the details. I may actually try to refurbish it. Thanks

  87. Deb V says:

    This was a very interesting article. I never thought of owning an old machine. I like to quilt so I might have to check out the local yard sales and auctions in my area.

  88. Rachel says:

    They are as beautiful as they are useful! I have a friend who has one as “decoration” in her house. I drool over it every week when I am there for bible study!

  89. Bethany says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I love the look of the old machines! And if I ever happen upon one now I have great information to help me determine whetther or not it would be a good investment. Thanks again!

  90. Cheryl says:

    Thanks for the wonderful post! I purchased a 1952 Singer featherweight machine a few months ago. I have been going through it and cleaning and oiling. They really are easy to maintain, and I love it!

  91. Holee says:

    Just one caution. Don’t buy and old machine with the Sears name on it thinking you are getting a Singer. It will most likely be made by White if it was before 1958. After that, it will be a cheap Japan import. The White machine was good, the import bad. I made this mistake thinking I was getting a Singer with Sears name on it. It was junk.

    Also you don’t need to buy the 221. Although the others will be heavier, they are work horses. You just won’t want to be carrying them off to classes!

  92. Ruth says:

    At 11 years of age, I sewed first on a treadle machine and then on one of those machines which wind up by hand and then on an electric (straight and zigzag only), which I used for thirty years. And I am still only 47! Recently I bought a modern machine (still a basic model, just for dressmaking). I made an apron and two skirts and then there was a clunk from inside and the reverse stopped working! And it is so difficult for me to take it back to the shop because I have mislaid the receipt. I can’t tell you how much I miss my reliable old machine….

  93. Anne says:

    i love the look of the old machines. I always thought of them as decorative rather than practical, until now

  94. Laura says:

    I have my grandmother’s old singer which looks very much like the one in the picture. This has inspired me to take it out and see if I can get it working! Thanks!

  95. Tiina says:

    Just came to my mind. My mother has so old sewing machine that it doesn’t need any electricity at all. You have to use your legs to keep it running.
    I wonder if it still works…

  96. Jasmine says:

    My mum used to have an old, old sewing machine that she still used when I was like 9…somehow my dad managed to drive over it in the garage. Goodness knows how.
    It was ancient and beautiful…mum still hasn’t recovered and never bought another sewing machine again.

  97. Karin says:

    I found an old sewing maschine (german brand Anker – they dont produce them anymore) – at a friends house – they were going to throw it away. I asked if I can have it and they said yes – but its alot of work cleaning and reconstruction

  98. Page says:

    I have been looking at these machines! I can’t explain why, but I just love vintage stuff, I live in a 1920’s house and I have it furnished in antique bargains I’ve founds. I don’t even have room for one of these and really need to save for a serger, but that beauty if VERY tempting. It would look great in the room next to all my vintage kitchen appliances (:

  99. Keri says:

    LIke many quilters, I have a stash…not only of fabric, but sewing machines. Let’s see. There’s the feather weight, the necchi supernova, the sail maker, and various other Singers just waiting a turn to sew.I love old machines! Not only do they sew divinely, but they purr. They don’t rattle and chatter like some of the newer models. My granddaughters are learning to sew on an original Bernina 830. We just recently opened up the Singer treadle to give them a real lesson. A new belt, a little oil and it sews like a dream. πŸ™‚

    Don’t get me wrong I use a computerized embroidery machine, too. But, the old ones are just special.

  100. Eva says:

    I’ve been using a Victorian treadle machine as my primary machine for the last two years or so. I even sewed my own wedding dress primarily using it (I broke down and borrowed a modern serger to finish some edges but it did all the seams!). It sounds less strange online, I guess, but it’s rather hard to get people to believe I prefer a treadle face to face, since I’m rather young looking for 28. πŸ˜‰

    I would totally recommend a treadle or hand crank machine over an electric. They’re way more durable and you can fix virtually any problem that arises yourself. If you get one of the later models from the teens or 20’s you will even find ones that have the same basic build as some of the early electrics, just no motor bolted on! πŸ˜‰

  101. Raphiel says:

    Well I now will be taking a second look at a classic machine if I ever find one. Thanks for all the info. If I find a little beauty I now know what to look for.

  102. Thank you for remembering these wonderful jems of machines! I recently bought a Singer 503 rocketeer that was made in 1961 and could not be happier. It’s a complete joy to use with gorgeous stitches and solid, solid construction. And style! Even better, the buttonhole attachment that I bought for $20 makes the best buttonholes in existence, hands down. We’re talking better than the Viking Diamond, without question. For me that was far more important than computerized stitches and honestly I haven’t missed them at all. I do a lot of garment sewing and this little workhorse makes it wonderful. So from a older machine owner, thank you for this helpful article!

  103. Katie says:

    One lady that I know uses an old Singer as her primary machine. In the thirties her mother won a lottery and was able to purchase a sewing machine. It’s still in working order! I’ve seen that baby run!

  104. I have a very old New Home 170 sewing machine. She doesn’t zig zag, she doesn’t backstitch, she doesn’t even stop when I stop sewing, but I LOVE HER! I could sew two tin cans together and my baby wouldn’t skip a stitch. I have her for 90 percent of my sewing, and use my Singer for buttonholes and the like.

  105. Suzanne says:

    I’ve never thought of having/using and old machine before but you just made me want one πŸ™‚

  106. Steph says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I saw a vintage machine at the local antique market and wasn’t sure about it. Now I won’t shy away from considering a vintage machine.

  107. jenn says:

    I love this! My grandmother passed on her Singer to me and I love it. I used it for a long time and I agree the stitiches are very consistant. We ahd it tuned up at a local sewing shop and it is good to go! It is not my main machine but I still have it and will pull it out on occasion. It is a treasure!

  108. Maria Olshin says:

    The machine pictured isn’t a Featherweight, it’s a model 15-91. It has a geared motor instead of a drive belt and is excellent for all kinds of heavy work, as well as delicate sewing. I have three of these, and use one primarily for free-motion quilting. I also have several other vintage Singers and Kenmores, and love how solid and capable they are.

    The most I ever paid for a 15-91 was $14.50 plus shipping, for an ebay purchase. The other two, also on-line auction buys, were $8.50 and $6, and the last one I picked up 35 miles from home.

    They use easily available and inexpensive short-shank feet, and are just about bullet-proof. My most expensive machine was a Singer 301A with a case, buttonholer, zigzagger and assorted attachments, still a buy at $68, including shipping.

  109. April says:

    I of course ran right to CraigsList to check out the stash listed in my area.

    I found a lord-knows-how-old machine in my mom’s basement a few months ago when we had to clean and make was for a repair man. The wheel seemed in good shape, and it turned fine, but I can’t imagine that it’s in great shape. I brought it home for a time when I can devote some research to fixing it up. We’ll see what happens.

  110. Desiree says:

    Thank you for the information. I will have to check mine over once I get her – (she is at my moms of lack of room in our small apartment). I am excited to see how she runs & now I know what to look for.

  111. Em says:

    I would love to have an older machine like that – simple, straightforward, mechanics. It would be great for piecing quilts, since all you need is a straight stitch… and I would love to find a machine with a beautiful straight stitch!

  112. Penny Sue says:

    I have been wanting to buy an older machine for my daughter to start sewing on. Thank you for the tips they were very helpful! Now the hunt is on!

  113. Meg says:

    Thanks for the tips!! I’ll keep them in mind when we’re thrifting this summer!

  114. brooke ann says:

    Your machine is beautiful, and reading your article is making me a little bit sad about having given my old Singer to a friend when I bought a new Pfaff years ago!

  115. christie says:

    My machine is slightly newer, a 1964 Singer Touch & Sew, and I love love LOVE it. We got it for $5 (!) at a yard sale and had the bobbin winder repaired. It is a honey of a machine and one of the last T&S machines mfd. with metal parts. πŸ™‚

  116. Debby says:

    Great article! I enjoy restoring and using the old machines (treadles, handcranks, and electric). The only problem is that it can be addictive. πŸ™‚ Not sure how many machines I have, but it is nice having them set up for different functions such as free-motion, walking foot, etc.

    Happy Sewing!


  117. Rachel says:

    I have three antique singers – two hand ones that belonged to my great- and great-great-grandmothers, and an electric one that my friend’s mum was getting rid of. This article has inspired me to get them out and have a play next time I’m back at my parent’s house.

  118. anne says:

    Thank you for the helpful tips.

  119. yes! Thank you so much for posting this! I have a Centennial 1951 Featherweight, I bought it off eBay for $200! It’s currently getting the foot pedal rewired to make it longer, I can’t WAIT to get it! All my friends use featherweights for quilting and I’m so jazzed to have one of my own now! Thanks for sharing the featherweight love!!!!

  120. Katy says:

    Great Post – i use my Grandmothers 1960 Bernina and what you were saying about the consistency of stitches is 100%, whether it is vinyl or thin delicate fabric – i always get the same results – i love my machine – and know there is only one plastic part in my home machine is pretty cool too! Thanks for the great post.

  121. D'Ann says:

    This sounds like the exact kind of machine I want. No frills just a reliable workhorse. Why don’t they make strong metal machines anymore? Thanks for the great article.

  122. Cecily says:

    My mom had a tredle machine as a show piece for years, I wonder if it would be refurbishable?

  123. Gail says:

    I would love to find a white featherweight. There was one featured on the cover of Martha Stewart’s magazine some years ago.

  124. Martha says:

    I love the look of vintage sewing machines, so will now know what to look for. Thanks!

  125. Monica says:

    I have a sewing machine exactly like the one pictured. My grandmother gave it to me and I love it. Like the author said, it does a wonderful straight stitch. When all i am doing is sewing a straight stitch, this is the machine I go to. However, when i want to sewing something more decorative, I have to use my newer machine.

  126. Ann S says:

    That machine is a beauty!

  127. Sara says:

    Irene, I swear I have the exact same Singer, even the cabinet looks the same. And for all the reasons you listed, I love mine and sew on it for every project. It is the only machine I have ever used that’s tension doesn’t get all out of wack for no reason at all. She is a workhorse and I love her! And thanks for the tip about oiling. I knew it was important but not daily. Thanks!

  128. azteclady says:

    I love this!

    My mother just sent me a few things from her house (now that she’s moved to a much smaller apartment) and one of them is my late grandmother’s sewing machine–a 1918 Singer.

    At some point, it got adapted for electricity, but it still has the iron foot pedal and stand. The wooden cabinet is a bit weathered but all in all, it’s a beautiful machine.

    Thank you for all this information, Stella!

  129. Carrie says:

    I just love the look of these old machines. I think I might have just found a new hobby!

  130. Jane says:

    I love the look of the older machines. I have a Featherweight born in 1937. I haven’t used the poor thing for nearly 2 years and I’ll bet it is feeling neglected. I had better get it out of its case and try her out, she may need a good tuneup.

    I wonder would there be a problem brewing because of this, needs oil etc? I’d love to know.

    I love the thread this month.

  131. Georgia says:

    It’s been a dream of mine to own an old Singer…I remember as a child my mom had one but her sister took it so ever since I’ve wanted one. I will have to keep the tips above in mind when I go ahead with the purchase.

  132. About “Hook orientation”… is there any reason to prefer one type over another?

  133. Kim says:

    My machine was not working recently and I had to borrow my Moms to finish a project I was working on. There was no manual with it so I looked up information on it online. It was made somewhere between 1940-1950. It is solid!!!!!!! It worked great.

  134. Amy S says:

    I have a newer model singer, and recently my father gave me an old Singer featherweight. Reading this post makes me want to switch to using the older machine! I just have to share that my dad has been collecting old featherweights, and my mom uses them in her quilting endeavors! She now has 6 vintage machines, and prefers the featherwieght to her contmeporary Brother!

  135. Sue says:

    I have my mother’s Singer machine that was purchased in 1951. It is in the original case, with all the attachments. The screw driver is still there, too as well as the manual. I am going to pass it along to my daughter-in-law since she is a beginning sewer and you can not go wrong with this machine. It is still going strong all these years later!

  136. maryanne says:

    I’d love to see a post on treadle sewing machines, that’s something I’ve always thought I would love to own.

  137. Kristin says:

    Thank you for advocating the vintage machines, I have four!

  138. Keilah says:

    I love that Singer machine that you have in the pictures. I would love one. Thanks for the great post.

  139. Angel S. says:

    I love old machines! I have an old treadle machine that I use every once in a while.

  140. Marlene says:

    I aquired my grandmother old Singer 401, it’s a fabulous machine.

  141. Lynne in NC says:

    well, these classics are certainly beautiful and functional.

  142. Em says:

    I love this post… I too have a vintage machine that I swear by… I posted the SMS questionnaire,, and I am so glad to see a vintage machine in the lime light.

  143. Sara L. says:

    Ack! All of these beautiful old Singers are making me covet one in a desperate way. Gorgeous and functional. And I think that taking apart my own machine sounds like a blast. There’s always room for one more hobby….

  144. After reading your article it doesn’t seem to hard to take care of an older machine. I’ll be looking over the machine at the thrift stores from now on. Thanks

  145. LittleA says:

    I have a Singer 328K Style-o-Matic from the 1960s as my primary machine, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It sews like a dream and is by far my most prized possession. I got it for $10 at a thrift store!

  146. Elise D. Singleton says:

    I too have a thing for old sewing machines. I love that heavy, solid metal feel and all those clever feet stashed in the metal bobbin boxes. No telling how many curtains and baby clothes each one has stitched and it’s still plugging along. If sewing on an old machine just make sure you have your pinking shears handy as there is no zig-zag stitch either!

  147. Natalija says:

    I have one of those =). I recently inherited my grandmothers machine – it’s also the machine I learned to sew with many years ago as a little girl. Now, it hasn’t been used for a while and I didn’t find the time yet to try if it’s still sewing, but I did find out on the internet that it is manufactured in 1919 and I found a manual online, so I will be trying it out. I hope that it will still sew, because it’s a treasured memory.

    Here are some pictures (of grandma and the machine)

  148. Stephanie says:

    My Mom had a machine like this one but got rid of it a few years ago. I only started quilting in the past few months and wish she had held onto it. I love the idea of the new machines but am always looking for ways to marry the past with the present.

    Thank you for your insight. I may have to keep my eye out for an old Singer.


  149. janet says:

    i think vintage singers are such beautiful machines. the all metal components and enamel finish make them so striking compared to current modern machines. I’m really interested in learning about machines that don’t use electricity at all and have a kick wheel to power it. thanks for this post!

  150. amanda says:

    This was an interesting article to read! My mom has an old sewing machine like this…I might just snatch it up next time I visit! πŸ™‚

  151. carolyn says:

    i LOVE the look and feel of old machines. Thanks for the article!

  152. Meredith says:

    Interesting article. I just bought a Husqvarna Viking 6030 from 1970. I’m ready to get to work trying to get it functioning smoothly. I’m amazed by the weight of this sewing machine and have heard as you mentioned that some of the older machines sew more evenly.

  153. Rachel says:

    Wow I just got so excited to see this in my reader. I am somehwta of a beginner and had a machine I bought at Walmart a few years ago, lately I can’t get the tension right at all. I’ve had my Grandma’s Singer from 1956 since she passed away a few years ago, but have been way too intimidated to even try it. I had my husband’s grandma come over and she finally taught me how to use it. I am in love with it!! I can’t believe how great it works- and looks! I packed my old one away and rearranged my room so I can just use this.

  154. Lauranie says:

    Very good information! I have recently “inherited” a Singer 301A that belonged to my Granny! The day she passed, was the day my son was born and I never got the “closure” that you get with a funeral since I was still in the hospital. I am so thankful that I have this part of her, and will think of her everytime I turn it on!

  155. Sarah says:

    The vintage machines really are SO much better looking than the machines of these days. It’s good to know that they are still widely used! I will keep my eyes peeled for some!

  156. Carol says:

    I’m always surprised at the longevity of these machines. They truly can last ‘forever’ if cared for!

  157. Elizabeth says:

    I have my grandmother’s old singer and have never even tried to use it. In fact, I have been a little afraid of it. I’m going to use your instructions/suggestions and try to figure it out!

  158. Kelli says:

    Thanks for the info. I have looked at many older machines at garage sales wondering if I should or should not buy… Thanks for the tips!

  159. Christina says:

    Just the other day my father-in-law told me he has an old singer sewing machine. This article makes me want to take a look at it and see if it’s in good enough condition to use regularly. Thank you for this great information. Your machine is beautiful!

  160. alisha says:

    Classic sewing machines are beautiful. I’d love to have one around for aesthetics, but until now I’ve never considered buying one for use.

  161. Camilla says:

    Daily oiling makes sense if you’re running the machine continuously all day long. My husband takes care of the service needs on my Singer 66 and oils it weekly or monthly – we find that if he’s over-aggressive about it, I spend too much time wiping up loose oil. It does want to be oiled, but there’s no benefit to overdoing it.
    The first benefit I found, when going to an older machine, is that it never feels balky when tackling thick fabrics. I was delighted when I found I could load it up with upholstery grade thread, a hefty needle, and repair a knapsack strap, without my Singer 66 giving the slightest complaint.

  162. Patti says:

    I have two really old singers, one is a featherweight and one was used to make automobile tops. I wouldn’t trade either one. I have to agree, the stitch quality on the old guys can’t be beat!

  163. Nicole says:

    Just awesome! Thanks for sharing all the great info, that I would have never otherwise thought of for a vintage machine! SEW KEWL!

  164. Sylvie says:

    Wow! You are really tempting me: I already liked older machines, now I want one. Thank you.

  165. Malorie says:

    I’ve always wondered about vintage machines…great post.

  166. Kelly W says:

    Thank you for the overview of the older models.

  167. Becky says:

    Oh NO!!! Now there are going to be more people in on the “secret” of how wonderful older machines are!!! πŸ˜‰

    I have one very new fancy machine. I use it only for embroidery. My ’60 and ’72 Kenmores are my work horses! Would not trade them for a bajillion computerized machines.

  168. Trudy Callan says:

    I’m so glad I read this because I was just recently wondering about this very thing. Now I can feel confident in buying a vintage machine if I run across one. Thanks so much.



  169. An Van Dessel says:

    My machine is ‘only’ 40 years old, but I recognise a lot of this information. I do love the power of my ‘old’ Singer. And the noice she makes, she really ‘sings’!

  170. Leslie says:

    I love vintage machines! I recently had the opportunity to purchase a Singer made in the late 1800’s that still works, unfortunately it had not been well loved and the finish was in a sad state…….

  171. Ellen Ban says:

    I agree these old 1950 era Singers make beautiful, consistent stitches and are good for beginning sewing. Even though I have a nice new, fancier machine, I tend to go back to my Singer 99 quite a lot! Thanks for reminding me about the oiling!

  172. angel says:

    Oooh, I was drooling over an older machine I saw at Savers but I put it back on the shelf thinking it was going to collect more dust at my house. I couldn’t justify buying something just because I loved it’s sleek lines. I assumed it was broken. This is great info to know for the next time. I’m on the hunt now! Thanks!

  173. nickie says:

    Thanks for the tips. I have an old singer, but it isn’t an electric one…You have to use the pedal:)

  174. Suzanne says:

    He said for plain sewing, you can be much better off with an old machine–it can be hard to get the same quality for something brand new without spending a ton of money. So if you can do without the bells and whistles, they are a very good choice,

  175. KerryQ says:

    I have had an old singer machine and table that I use as an end table on the living room. I inherited it from my crafty grandmother. Thanks to your post I’m going to give her a try! Nana would be delighted!

  176. Suzanne says:

    I went by the Singer Repair shop to have my machine serviced. I was a little surprised by the price, so we discussed the merits of having my machine serviced vs. buying a new machine. My current machine is 20 years old; a no frills Singer bought at Costco.

    He said that it was made in the US and metal on the inside and would last much longer than a new machine. So I had it serviced. I think I will stick with it until I a) use the current machine enough to justify getting a new one, and b) can find a used industrial machine for a good price.

  177. Brooke says:

    Great info, Thanks!

  178. Kim B. says:

    It would be such a treat to have a gorgeous vintage machine! Thank you for this informative article!

  179. Angel says:

    This is something that I have been interested in…I would love to hear from someone who refurbishes treadles….if I had more time, that is what I would love to do!

  180. Karen/twinmom says:

    except for the cabinet (mine is a portable model) you’ve pictured my machine! I use it constantly, in tandem with my serger . My grandmother found it for me & had it fixed up – it matches my mother’s cabinet machine. It keeps me close to her (she has passed) and it was my first machine – I’ll always cherish it. I’ve had it over twenty years. Your post did remind me to oil it, tho – I don’t do that quite enough! These machines are heavy duty & will outlast their plastic counterparts. Thanks for this post!

  181. Jess says:

    I love my old machine.
    I use a Spartan, which was a British version of the Singer, that my mom used in High School.
    I have been sewing on it for 22 years, and it’s still kicking along.

  182. Susie Mac says:

    I enjoyed this post. Thanks. I’ve slowly getting back into sewing again, and the only machine in the house is my mom’s Singer treadle machine. I love it. When I was a teenager, my parents had bought me an electric machine but I could never figure out the doodads that came with it, even the zigzagger. I’m happy making straight stitches as I pump away on the treadle,

  183. alison says:

    Great information! My Grandma used an old trundle machine. She’s passed on now but I have such great memories of this sewing machine. I really want this sewing machine, since I’m the only grandchild that sews I’m hoping my Grandpa will give it to me

  184. Sarah E. says:

    wow! that was fascinating, thanks for sharing!

  185. Rachael says:

    YES. It looks just like mineΓ’β‚¬β€œ and I adore it. I got mine for $40 on Craigslist, use it everyday, and couldnÒ€ℒt be happier! I answered Sew Mama SewÒ€ℒs sewing machine meme on my blog.

  186. Lisa says:

    I just love the look of those old machines πŸ™‚ And, it would be great to be able to do repair work yourself – I think I’ll take a second look the next time I see one at a sale.

  187. Sherrille Mackeigan says:

    Love the old machines I have my mothers old singer it would be about 50 years old or more it works like a charm. My daughter just bought asinger feather weight , that is in great shape had it serviced and works. Haven’t done much sewing on it yet just need to find the time Great article.

  188. Amy says:

    My parents have an old machine like this in their GARAGE! I have asked 100 times if I could have it, but my dad is reluctant. I have no idea why!!! I made him cover it up and protect it very well while he’s deciding if I can have it or not. I’m so in awe of your gorgeous machine πŸ™‚

  189. Whistlepea says:

    This is really helpful. Older machines are so beautiful!

  190. Jodie says:

    The machine I learned to quilt on (and made my first 10 quilts with!) was a 1950’s Singer (tan colored). I still have it, although I have since upgraded to a modern machine for daily use since I make so many quilts.

    I love my Singer and will likely keep it for the rest of my life. Simple, soooo easy to use, and what a work horse! I joke that the only “switch” on the whole machine is to turn out the light bulb. I look forward to teaching my daughter how to sew on that machine in a few years.

    I highly recommend an older machine to someone who likes to keep in simple or is just learning to sew. What a great place to start!

  191. Katie Bowlby says:

    Thanks for the info! I’d love to have one of these beauties.

  192. Erica says:

    I want one. I am in the market for a new machine and I am seriously considering buying a vintage one instead. Thanks a lot!

  193. Mrs. JP says:

    I learned to sew on one of those babies. The bobbin was a long tube-like thing!

  194. susan says:

    My grandma had a machine just like that. I am going to ring her up and see whatever happened to that machine!

  195. Beth says:

    I have my great-grandmother’s old singer – just about like this one. Until I got my mom’s Viking, I did all kinds of things with it. Regular, straight stitching is what is does best. When I pull it out of the box, the smell just reminds me of using it as a little girl, it’s a little musty, but such a good little machine!

  196. Missy Ann says:

    I’ve been thinking of buying a vintage machine as my backup. I’ll be sure to keep these tips in mind.

  197. Jacey says:

    What great timing! I just bought a machine from a garage sale for $5! It’s a beast and took me forever to carry home (my arms paid the price the next day). I’m excited to get it up and running…if only I didn’t have to work….

  198. Jill G says:

    Thats so weird that you posted this today. I just found one in my closet this morning that I had bought 6 years ago and totally forgot about. Besides using it to see that it worked … it has sat unused. Its just like the one pictured. I bought it because I imagined it displayed in a cute craft room but I don’t think that will ever happen. I keep having babies that take my craft space! πŸ˜‰ I should probably just sell it. πŸ˜‰

  199. Suzanne says:

    Thank you so much for these fantastic tips! I am going to print this out and keep it with me at all times.

    I have a ten year old son who would LOVE to help me take an old machine apart. He’s fascinated by all things mechanical, including the sewing machines we have and old ones we’ve looked up on the internet.

  200. Carrie says:

    Great feature! I sew and quilt everything on my grandmother’s circa 1960 Singer, and I wholeheartedly agree. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a new machine, it’s dependable and I have been able to do just about everything I want to with it. So much so, I don’t even desire a new machine anytime soon.

  201. Oh, gosh. Now I am itching to refurb my mother’s 1971 Kenmore. Thanks for the post.

  202. BethAnn says:

    Wow excellent info. This might be a solution for me, since my little singer that I have isn’t quite big enough for quilting quilts. (if that makes sense).

  203. Annette W says:

    I never would have considered buying an old machine, but now I will be keeping my eyes open! Great tips!

    What do old machines cost, in general?

  204. Leslie Newton says:

    I have always wanted one of these and see them listed locally in the classifieds. Now, I am on the “hunt” for one, since I can now justify having one. I have just gotten into quilting and this would be extremely helpful.

  205. mub says:

    This is a great article. My main machine is a 60s era Viking and I absolutely adore sewing on it.

  206. Rebecca says:

    I have a slightly newer machine, a Bernina from the 70’s, but I LOVE it! My mom sews with an older singer, kind of like the photos here πŸ™‚

  207. Margie says:

    Stella is a beauty. Thanks for all the info. I would think twice about passing up a deal on a classic!

  208. Monica Gee says:

    Thanks for the tips! I have all “older” machines that have been refurbished, but none this old! I love how much more sturdy things were made in the past and how reliable these machines are.

  209. Valerie says:

    I’ve always loved gorgeous vintage Singers, but I admit I’d never thought of actually using one!

  210. girlsmama says:

    I would love to find an antique sewing machine that still works! The search is on.

  211. Leigh says:

    I am constantly trolling Craigslist for a good vintage machine. My mother in law has one that she said I can have but right now the stand is her TV table! I think a new TV table would be a lovely gift for her, don’t you? Thanks for all this information!

  212. KJB says:

    Yes, the joys of owning a vintage machine are great. There is much less to go wrong with a strictly mechanical machine (and if something does go wrong, they are easier to repair). One concern though; it is becoming increasingly difficult to purchase needles for my beloved Singer 306K.

  213. Danielle says:

    Those older machines sure do look beautiful!

  214. MARIA ISABEL says:

    I love the older sewing machine, my mother have one.

  215. Linnea says:

    Thanks for the great insight Irene! I currently work with a computerized machine and often think I would be happier with just a straight up mechanical…no fancy bells and whistles. I’m happy to hear that they are so trustworthy…not to mention classic beauties!

  216. Liz says:

    my mom found, purchased, and gifted me a featherweight sewing machine like the one in the picture for the christmas 2006–naturally i am too terrified to even remove it from the box!

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