The Irresistible Allure of a Vintage Sewing Machine

vintage sewing machine

There's always been something quite special about creating clothes with a good ole' vintage sewing machine. Perhaps it's the idea that you're partaking in a fragment of history…or maybe it's the fact that your vintage sewing machine was originally owned by your great-grandmother and has been passed down to your grandmother, your mother and now to you!

Indeed, when you sew with a vintage sewing machine, you're definitely linking up with a piece of history…and using this equipment from the past somehow nurtures the soul. You see, you’re not only connecting with people who have used the machine before but also with those who have manufactured it with honor and pride.

Vintage Sewing Machines Are a Dime A Dozen

When I say vintage, I refer to sewing machines that are at least forty years old…and if you are not one of the lucky ones who inherited a vintage sewing machine, don’t fret, because you can now buy them online at a price of $75 or less and this may already include shipping. Garage sales and your local thrift store may also sell them for an affordable price and the most popular brands are Singer, Kenmore, and Viking.

vintage sewing machine

You just have to make sure that you buy one that is still fully functional, so it is best to ask the seller for a stitch sample when you make your purchase on eBay or Craigslist where plenty of vintage sewing machines are sold. When shopping, here’s a word of advice, if you buy on Craigslist you can check and test the machine first so this is quite ideal: and I promise you, that distinctive feeling of reaching out to the past will still be quite palpable.

Making A Practical and Green Choice

It is a well-known fact that vintage sewing machines are mechanically less complex than the new models; as such, they don't break down as easily and are easier to repair, making them perfect for beginner sewists. Also, because they don't have motherboards and computer circuits that can break down, vintage sewing machines are much cheaper to maintain. After having it refurbished, all you need is regular oiling, sometimes a minor tune up and you’re good to go for a long time to come.

vintage sewing machine

Many vintage sewing machines are equipped with the same parts as the new models, like bobbins, presser feet, and needles. Accessories for vintage sewing machines which are manufactured by famous brands like Singer, Kenmore, and Viking aren't that difficult to find; plus if you really think about it, not much has changed when it comes to basic sewing machine equipment, making it a very practical choice.

Many sewists probably don't realize that using a vintage sewing machine means being environmentally friendly too. Faced with the stark reality that our planet’s resources are not finite, recycling a vintage sewing machine by giving it a new life is a kind of recycling that certainly benefits nature.

Easy to Use and Durable

Unlike the new sewing machine, a vintage sewing machine isn't equipped with a myriad of stitch functions and a computer board, so it's relatively easy to use. With no electronic parts to deal with, anyone, like you and me, can take a vintage sewing machine apart for cleaning and then assemble it back. With just a few hooks to deal with, threading is also a simple process. The rest of the parts, like presser feet, bobbins, and tension function like those in modern machines and don't need a lot of attention.

If you find any machine that's forty years old and beyond and it still functions, this is already tangible proof of its durability. The same can be said about vintage sewing machines. Remember that most of these machines were top of the line in design and production and that is the reason why they still function to this day. Just like vintage cars, they are made of a more durable metal material as opposed to their modern, plastic counterpart.

If you're concerned about what can and can't be done with a vintage machine, think back to the fact that housewives were using these machines to make complicated fashions for the whole family and fashions have, in fact, not become more complex over time.

Elegant and beautiful, vintage sewing machines are classically colored black, white or tan. They have simple curves, bare exteriors and enamel coatings that make them appealing to the eyes. Equipped with solid parts that fit well together, they sit on hinges that will allow you to tip them back and expose their base or underside. They make beautiful consistent stitches and are extremely reliable. Their allure is actually not only emotional and sentimental, it is also aesthetic and practical, and this makes a vintage sewing machine simply irresistible.

Please share your thoughts and experiences with vintage sewing machines in the comments below.  Why not leave a pic of your vintage machine for everyone to admire?

vintage sewing machine

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151 Responses to The Irresistible Allure of a Vintage Sewing Machine

  1. Anna Ray says:

    My beloved 1967 Singer 357k semi-professional (powder blue enameled, all metal parts, quality build in Aberdeen) can handle heavy fabrics, any type of thread, many layers, and the stitches are always dead straight and never skip around I wouldn’t part with it for the world and use my newer machine mainly for overlocking, stretch and fancy stitching. Also, my steady old Singer can handle cheaper threads but I only use Gutermann or Coats in the new machine as it’s action is not as smooth. God bless old machines, with their all-metal construction and smooth action. My newer machine is an Elna, but I hadn’t realised when I bought it that Elna’s good name had been bought to put on cheaply made machines – have just bought a Singer overlocker and hope I don’t find the same. Your blog is great btw, you really put a lot of thought into it. I ‘bought you a coffee’ but will peruse your paid-for patterns too. Have just printed your Easy Long Cardigan as a first try-out. Thanks for a great site.

  2. Enid Newberg says:

    I have my grandmother’s Necci treadle machine from the early 1900’s that still works and is still in its original cabinet. And I have a Pfaff 6122 – German made, IDT, mechanical and an amazing machine. It still sews beautifully, from light weight to jeans. I like it so well when I found another one on OfferUp, I bought it in case I ever need parts – although it too sews so well I’m not sure I could sacrifice it!.

    A couple of years ago I bought a Singer Quantum 9960 because I was lured by the “computerized” hype. I do like it and found it using when making braided rugs from t-shirts. Even so, when I started sewing face masks this Spring, it was on my mechanical Pfaff.

  3. Alice says:

    I have my mother’s Singer, one of the first electric in a cabinet with a knee activated “peddle”. Several years ago I had it refurbished. I also have my Mother-in-law’s treadle, also a Singer. I am reluctant to part with either, partly because both of these amazing women are now gone. The machine that I currently use is a 30 year old Janome, with all the bells and whistles available at the time. I recently had it serviced and was “lectured” by a lovely older gentleman not to ever exchange it for a newer machine. It is constructed with Metal not plastic as most of the newer models. Every time my husband suggests that we don’t have room for 3 machines, I start to tear up. I guess my daughter will eventually have to decide.

  4. Karen Futtner says:

    I’m a sewing machine softy…I feel sorry for them at tag sales, hoping they were once loved and cared for, and want to take them home. I once had 24, but now, only 10 including 2 featherweights and an old White which was my grandma’s treadle machine that Mom had electrified as a portable. Now that I have the original cabinet from her attic, I think I might see if I can still use it as a treadle again. I still use my 56 year old store branded White machine as my go to workhorse. It sews anything!

  5. El says:

    I purchased a treadle machine, in 2016,at an auction for $5.00. It came with a note from the original owners daughter. She was the only owner since the early 1900’s. Believe it or not that price included the notions box, complete with a ruffler foot. Which I have used and works great.

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      I am rarely envious but this I have to say is a great find. I would keep that note as well as the machine and the notion box.

  6. Pauline Weisensale says:

    I own a Kenmore model 1914 zig zag sewing machine that I bought brand new that does everything I want and more. Has free arm, twin needle, stretch stitching, monogrammer, buttonholes, and cams. Believe I purchased it in 1969. Love it would not trade it for anything.

  7. Denice Schanaman says:

    Singer touch and sew , stay away from them, they had plastic screw together bobbins that break all the time. I have wore out 2 sewing machines in my lifetime, the motors just were not good anymore. I sew ALOT

    • John Yingling says:

      I once worked for a sewing machine repair shop, all the old guys working there called the Touch and Sew, the “Touch and Toss!”

  8. Barbara T says:

    My husband is currently sewing on his grandmother’s Singer 15 treadle machine, which we keep set up in what was our dining room. I am sewing on a Singer model 201, which was known as the “Rolls Royce” of sewing machines. It sews perfectly and needs very little in terms of maintenance. We have become collectors (hoarders?) of vintage machines and currently own at least 15. My husband has done some research and has become a skilled technician who fixes and maintains all our machines himself. I do own a couple of “modern” machines, but the vintage ones all have a special place in our hearts.

    • Mayra Cecilia says:

      Barbara, you have a lot going for yourselves but not sure what is the most impressive your little museum, the fact that you have a husband who sews or that he can fix the machines! You go, girl!

      • Barbara T says:

        Haha, thanks! Hubby sews silnylon packs for backpacking – that material is so slippery, but his zipper installation is superb. He’s an enabler for my addiction, but that’s not a bad thing.

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