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Thread: Question for those of you with antique sewing machines

  1. #1
    Super Member Rachelcb80's Avatar
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    I see so many of you here with the antique sewing machines (by antique I mean the ones from the 1800's and such) and I know most of you sew on them. I've been wondering for quite some time what the draw is. Do they sew better than modern machines? Is it just the novelty aspect of sewing on an antique machine? I've never even seen one in person so I don't have the first clue about them, but I'm curious as to why they are so popular. I'm wondering if I should be dreaming of finding one. :)

  2. #2
    Super Member no1jan's Avatar
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    I have 2 vintage Singers. I wouldn't consider them antique as they aren't over 100 years old.

    The first is a Singer Model 66 made in 1930. I love this machine. The stitches are perfect and it just hums. Yes, the age of the machine and the looks does appeal to me, but you can't beat it for straight stitching such as piecing. I bought it in a cabinet from Craigslist for $35.00. The cabinet needs some refurbishing and I had to replace the bobbin tire ($2.00) and the light bulb ($2-3). Otherwise it works perfectly, even though it was made before they had reverse.

    I also have a model 201 made in 1937. I have not used this much. I picked up this machine in the cabinet for $40.00. There is nothing wrong with it except it was filthy. When I opened the bobbin case it was packed with lint. I have cleaned it up and oiled it pretty good. When sewing at a fast speed it makes a squeeking noise, but I was told that it just needed more oil.

    You can't beat the straight stitch of the older machines. Once they started making zig zags, you no longer have the perfect straight stitch.

    Besides they are so beautiful!

    This is just my opinion! I would love to get my hands on a featherweight!!! :) :) :)

  3. #3
    Pam
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    The old machines have all metal gears and they have such a unique sound when they sew, you can almost hear the pride of the makers in the way they sound. I have a Singer 99 and I do not use it often, but I am planning on giving my Bernina a "break" and making my next pieced quilt on the Singer.

  4. #4
    Super Member Maride's Avatar
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    I learned to sew in an old Singer and had not heard the humming again on a machine until I got my Featherweight. It brought me back memories of my grandmother sewing on it.

  5. #5
    JJs
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    well, for one thing there are no circuit boards to go blooie

    there are no plastic parts, gears, etc to crinkle, fail, break, dissolve

    they are cool as all get out

    get a treadle or handcrank and you can sew anywhere, anytime, with no electricity

    and as she said, perfectly straight stitches - watch a zigzag machine stitch a 'straight' line sometime - you will see teeny tiny deviations to the sides..

  6. #6
    Super Member Oklahoma Suzie's Avatar
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    I had one when I lived with my mom, I had to leave it when I moved.

  7. #7
    Super Member carrieg's Avatar
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    I think it's the quality of the stitch. I am hoping to get my grandmother's treadle fixed. I learned to sew on it and could get it going pretty fast!

  8. #8
    Super Member raptureready's Avatar
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    I've got several, from treadles to a hand crank portable to the early electric. Some in cabinets, some portable. I used to collect machines until I ran out of room. The antiques are just fun---a trip back in time. They have a different sound and feel to them. As I'm sewing on my hand crank from Germany I imagine the trip it made to get here:
    She wasn't shipped with crates of others, she was hand carried and placed in the cabin so that the woman that owned her could pass the time away by sewing. The young woman had been orphaned when her parents died. After everything except her clothing and her mother's sewing machine had been sold and all the bills were paid, she took the small amount left and purchased a ticket to America. When others on the ship found out that she had a machine she was begged to do mending, commissioned to make ensembles, etc. With the money she earned on her trip to her new home in America she was able to purchase a beautiful little cottage and start her own business.


    Now, to be honest I have no idea how my little machine got here but isn't that a wonderful story? That's what I imagine when I sew with my hand crank. Other machines have other "histories."

  9. #9
    LBryan13790's Avatar
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    I am a vintage Singer fanatic. I have a 301A, 500A, 301A shortbed, and 221.

    In agreement with the others, the vintage Singers are comforting to me. My mother used to sew all our clothes on a 301A after we went to bed, and I love that sound.

    In addition, they are simple to use. I tried a newer Singer, but the electronics were frustrating. I work long hours, so quilting needs to be a tension reliever.

    Now I have my son & daughter sewing on my Singers. It is a fun way to spend time together!!

  10. #10
    Super Member Charlee's Avatar
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    For me, it's the history. The nice stitches are important to me, but the thought of another woman, long ago, beaming with pride as her then new sewing machine was brought into the house and she sat down at it to sew...I love antiques, and often imagine the homes that they first "resided" in, and often wonder about the lives of those who owned them. I'm the same way with my cast iron as I am with the sewing machines. Who owned them...did they sacrifice and pinch pennies to be able to have them? How many Sunday dinners did my 130 year old cast iron roaster cook? How many Easter dresses did this "new to me" Wheeler and Wilson sewing machine sew? What little girl learned to sew on it? Did she learn as I did, making first an apron, and patching her daddy's work clothes? Did her grandmother help her? Her mother? A favorite auntie? I imagine that little girl sitting on the floor at her mother's side, waiting for her mama to finish that seam so that the hem can be pinned.
    It's those thoughts that run through my mind when I see the old machines in the shops or on the internet...and it breaks my heart that someone either didn't care enough about the family history of the machine to treasure it, or "had" to part with it either for space or money. I know that I'd so love to have my grandmother's machine, or my great grandmother's machine...

  11. #11
    Super Member Grama Lehr's Avatar
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    Wow! Now I really feel bad. . . . :oops: I have an old Singer sitting on a high shelf in the garage. All sad and forlorn. . . . . getting dusty, not loved, just patiently sitting there, waiting for me to love it. I'm going to take it down and see what's up with it. Someone, I don't even know who, gave it to me a hundred years ago, and I just never did anything with it. Ladies, thank you for the love stories, I just might have my own dream machine waiting to be loved. I don't know a thing about it, only it's old, black with Singer decals and it has a plug. :roll: :roll: :-( :-(

  12. #12
    Super Member raptureready's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grama Lehr
    Wow! Now I really feel bad. . . . :oops: I have an old Singer sitting on a high shelf in the garage. All sad and forlorn. . . . . getting dusty, not loved, just patiently sitting there, waiting for me to love it. I'm going to take it down and see what's up with it. Someone, I don't even know who, gave it to me a hundred years ago, and I just never did anything with it. Ladies, thank you for the love stories, I just might have my own dream machine waiting to be loved. I don't know a thing about it, only it's old, black with Singer decals and it has a plug. :roll: :roll: :-( :-(
    That's like a blank canvas waiting for a painting! Make up your own loving history for it and you'll form a lasting bond. Excitement is building!!! Just get it out, clean it, oil it and start sewing. Her story will unfold with each stitch and you may be pleasantly surprised where it takes you.

  13. #13
    dungeonquilts's Avatar
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    I have enjoyed reading what everyone has to say about Antique sewing machines. I am cleaning out an Estate that has a very old singer in a case, none of the family members want it. Will have to do some research on the machine and post (with picture) if someone is interested in having.

  14. #14
    Member sunlover's Avatar
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    The sound, the sound.....I call my Featherweight the Hummer. That is what it sounds like. Her name is Bertha after my grandmother. I found her in 1976 in an antique store in Issaquah, Washington. I have only had her to the shop once and that was because I put the needle in backwards! I use her exclusively for piecing which gives a perfect seam when I'm done. If you ever find a Featherweight, buy her. Not only are they worth their weight in gold it is a piece of History that many quilters would almost give up their stash for. I have been offered hundreds of dollars for her, but there isn't a price on her lovely black enameled head. She was born on August 11th 1951 and she is still beautiful.

  15. #15
    Super Member QBeth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJs
    get a treadle or handcrank and you can sew anywhere, anytime, with no electricity..
    My thoughts exactly when I purchased a hand crank Singer from another quilter who's grandmother had just died; she didn't have use for it and was hoping to find someone who could appreciate it. In the meantime, I was asking around for someone who might have just such a machine, one that looked like the one my grandmother had! A match made in Heaven by our LQS.

    I really wanted one so I could sew anywhere. My boyfriend has a 1962 T-bird and loves to go to antique car shows with it. Old cars are fun, just not my "thing." Joking said to him one day that I wish I could sew while he wandered. Hence my search. We get to try out our new plan in a few weeks at the first car show of the year. Wish me luck!

  16. #16
    Super Member raptureready's Avatar
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    I found a Featherweight in 1971 and asked mom and dad to get it for me for highschool graduation. Instead they bought a new Kenmore portable. Last year I was finally able to find another one and it was at my high school English teacher's estate sale. So now I finally have a Featherweight and memories of Mrs. Brown to go along with it.

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    I have numerous "old" Singer machines. I sew on a 1947 Singer 201K handcrank, and have two 201K aluminum handcranks to take to classes. I also have numerous other handcranks and a few electric. They are addictive. You can't beat their precise stitches, they're beautiful to look at, sound wonderful while stitching. When my grandchildren come to visit, they love to sew on my machine. And they are easy to maintain.
    What's the draw? Everything about them.

    Barb

  18. #18
    Moderator littlehud's Avatar
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    They are just so beautiful. And most of them still work, which is amazing to me.

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    Oh boy a thread just for us lovers of the treadle!! :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  20. #20
    Senior Member Born2Sew's Avatar
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    I have my great aunt's old black Singer machine and cabinet.
    Not even sure of the model number, and can't readily access it at the moment. You all have given me the desire to drag it out and use it again. Actually, I can't recall how I ended up with it. Seems that my great uncle asked if I wanted it, and of course I would never turn down an offer like that! Their daughter wouldn't have wanted it at all.
    That's what I find the saddest....

  21. #21
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    For me I love the sounds they make, especially the VS machines like my Singer 27.

    Then there is the quality of the machines, the pride of American engineering sitting in front of me. They didnt have CNC machines, computers to design it. It was all done by a pencil, paper, slide rule and trial and error.

    But for me its almost a way of life. Treadles are the only type of sewing machine I use. My newest is a 1948 Japanese 15 (which I pulled the motor off of to make use of it in a treadle) and the oldest is an 1870's New Home Model A.

    When I use my machines its like I have been transported back in time, to a more simpler way of life. Its relaxing and when I am done making a quilt you can almost see the love that is put into making it. You are holding something that was made on a piece of history. It also means so much more to the recipient knowing the effort and the type of machine it was made on.

    Billy

  22. #22
    Super Member Grama Lehr's Avatar
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    Now, that is true passion!! ;)

  23. #23
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    I have an industrial Singer 95-80 from the 1930's and I love it.

    At the time, I was sewing "professionally", making lots of things and selling them at craft shows (this was 1986). I was using a second-hand old all-metal Kenmore that I had to keep taking into the shop for repairs every couple of months as it would not hold the timing. And the repair man basically told me, "Lady, you've worn it out! Get another machine!". I asked him about industrials - secondhand only, as I could not afford a new one - and he showed me this ancient, cosmetically-challenged Singer. And he assured me that I would not be able to wear it out within my lifetime.

    I do believe he was right. In all these years - 24 now? - it has been in for repairs exactly once, when I got it jammed up with fabric. I can oil it, clean it, and since there are manuals online I can even time it myself. Just think of the money I have saved in repairs and tune-ups. It has more than paid for itself.

    Yes it does a great straight-stitch. And... yes, that's all it does, no reverse, no zigzag. But most of the sewing I do is straight-stitch anyway. I have a Bernina 1130S that does fancy tricks... but my choice is always to go over to the Singer.

    Love story? Well... years ago my son took my seam ripper and carved an "I love you" into the finish. So we have that, too, as part of the history of this machine.

  24. #24
    Super Member Grama Lehr's Avatar
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    Too funny!!

  25. #25
    Senior Member PurpleBecca's Avatar
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    I have a couple of old singers, my Grandma's. my sister's ex hushband's Grandma's featherweight (get your head around that!!) I have an old Singer treadle too. I used to have lots of others but ran out of space!

    I love the sound and the history - like the other guys said. I dont use mine though - I love my Bernina's with a passion, PASSION!

    But I still love to look at the old ones and turn the handle and hear that sound.........

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