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Thread: Musings from the Miller ...... antique machines are better.

  1. #1
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Musings from the Miller ...... antique machines are better.

    I think most if not all of us here own vintage to antique sewing machines. I was poking around the forum and internet today it dawned on me just how durable these machines are.
    Those made around 50 to a hundred years plus ago were made to last a lifetime by companies with totally different attitudes than today. Those made around a hundred years ago were made by people that are no longer alive. These old machines have outlived their makers, original owners and some of them have out lived several successive generations of owners as well.
    The thing is, with a bit of care and TLC they will sew just as good today as they did in 1960 or 1910 or 1880.

    It would be so wonderful if SINGER still made their machines like this, but they don't. I doubt if anyone in three or four generations will be using the computerized plastic junque that is being produced today.

    I find that sad, but things change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Perhaps in four generations people will order from an electronic catalog and their clothes, quilts, and other things will be created by a replicator. Somehow that just doesn't appeal to me. I kind of like the idea that a human made my clothes.


    Time marches on, I'm stuck in the past.

    Joe

  2. #2
    Super Member barri1's Avatar
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    I love my Singer 66, and 99

  3. #3
    Super Member KatFish's Avatar
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    It's all about cost. Singer used to make it's own cabents, machines, and even printed their own stuff. No one does that any more. I will be passing my old Singers down the line to my daughters.

  4. #4
    Super Member jlhmnj's Avatar
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    Right on. Labor and materials were cheap back in "the day".

    Jon

  5. #5
    Senior Member harrishs's Avatar
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    I love all my vintage machines. My favorite is the one I am using at the time.......I think they were made better and that those people that were lucky enough to own a machine, took very good care of them.....Kept them clean and oiled and didn't abuse------now, it seems we are in a a "throw away" stage-----use, abuse, get rid of it----There is a special beauty and stateliness to the old machine.....

  6. #6
    Super Member Quilt Mom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Miller View Post
    Time marches on, I'm stuck in the past.

    Joe
    Even if we are not stuck in the past, these vintage machines are wonders! My newest machine is vintage, but was top of the line when we purchased it new. Three cheers for good workmanship!
    Quilt Mom

    Going through life one stitch at a time

  7. #7
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Quilt Mom,

    My wife's newest machine is a Bernina 930. It's from 1986 according to Bernina. My wife has used it to make clothes, quilts, crafts, and she just found out last night it does some dandy decorative stitches. She received that machine from my cousin via her estate. I doubt she'll ever buy a new or newer machine.

    Most of our machines date from the 60s back to early 1900s with a couple in the 1970s and 80s. The 70s-80s, with the exception of the Bernina, will probably get sold as soon as we make sure they work properly. Too much plastic.

    Joe

  8. #8
    Super Member Lori S's Avatar
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    I have a vintage 306 W the hours of use have gone beyond any measurement. It has made more pinch pleat curtains, winter coats , and was the source of outfitting every garment for a complete family of 6 for 40 years before coming to my home... its amazing how this machine just keeps going with simple up keep I can do myself.

  9. #9
    Super Member Charlee's Avatar
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    What it amounts to is economics. Not only is labor cheaper in China...but if the items don't wear out, then there's no need to buy new.

    I'll be using my old girls for the rest of my life, and hopefully, someday, I'll have someone that will want to inherit them...if not, then I will make sure that they go to someone else who will love and honor them.
    One day, you'll only be a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one.

    http://charleeturner.blogspot.com

  10. #10
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Truthful about the economics but I think the idea that if things don't wear out there's no reason to buy new isn't really valid. Well, perhaps in today's market it is. I tend to look at things they way they were, more so than the way they are.

    Up until the 50's and 60s things were made to last and people still bought them.
    But things happened to our country in the late 50s to 60s. Attitudes changed most assuredly, but the US also passed laws after WW II allowing much more foreign competition. The do-gooders in our government wanted to help build up the economy's in war ravaged Japan, Italy and Germany, but they didn't give a hoot in hell about our economy that was also trying to revert back to civilian production from the full tilt war production. This in my opinion was the start of the destruction of the old line products that were made to last. Granted the early Japanese 15 clones were and are great machines, but they were also the iceberg that sunk our Titanic industry. With such fierce foreign competition US makers could not compete like they did in years passed. So, they cheapened their products, outsourced, and eventually just caved in to the throw-away concept.

    So, now they or their descendents stay in business by making junque while those of us who are anachronisms continue using products they made in bygone eras.

    That's the way it is, but I don't have to like it.

    Joe

  11. #11
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    An old post I made: http://www.quiltingboard.com/main-f1...n-t133897.html
    people didn't catch to what I was saying about the machines - only about the sewing...
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  12. #12
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    I caught it both. But all I have to relate to is the sewing. The clothes made on the old machine Mom had.

    Joe

  13. #13
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    So many people will buy a new machine because they don't want to pay to service an old one right off the bat. Little do they know...
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  14. #14
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    Change is sometimes for the better. Sometimes not.

    I do find reading the posts about new acquisitions interesting -
    Someone is very excited to get the newest, most elaborate (expensive) machine on the market -
    Another person is equally excited to find an old vintage (1960 or earlier) machine in good working order for a modest dollar amount.

    Since reading about some of the older machines, I've acquired several - five Singer 237's - not one of the most popular ones around, but I'm fond of them, and four others. Two of them need to be serviced - a singer 66 and a singer 401A.

    My Mom had some that got away from me when she died - but I didn't know then what I know now.

  15. #15
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    My wife and I are working on a project. We needed to find one of our machines that does zig-zag and decorative stitches to do some creative stitching.
    We have in no particular order:
    Bernina 930 = 1986
    Singer 4622 A = late 80s to eary 90s?
    Alden SUZ-2 = 60s?
    MW 7 Jewel = 60s?
    Singer 319K = 1957
    Ideal Automatik = 60s?
    Singer 401A =
    Singer 338K =

    All of these machines are capable of making many varieties of decorative stitches. We went around checking the patterns each made and narrowed it down to three. The Bernina that makes a stitch that looks like waves, The MW 7 Jewell that makes bubbles. And the Singer 4622A that does a couple other odd looking stitches.
    The Bernina never falters, it just goes and goes and goes and .... well we might nick name the Eveready Bunny.
    The MW 7 Jewel is quiet and smooth and makes great stitches seeming without effort.
    Now the Singer 4622 sounds horrible to me. It runs, it works, but it sounds like it's struggling and fighting to run. I don't like it.
    I tried to tell my wife why, but the words would not come. So I showed her. I sewed with the MW 7 Jewell and then the Singer.
    She said: "It's simple; the 7 Jewel sounds like metal, and the Singer sounds like plastic."

    I hate plastic machines. It's not all plastic like the new ones, but that machine just sounds cheep.

    I've looked at new machines. I've watched them work. But I don't want one. No plastic wannabee sewing machines with computers will ever be owned by me.

    Older and antique machines are better.

    Joe

  16. #16
    Super Member jljack's Avatar
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    About 10 years ago I bought a cheap Brother machine at WalMart for my daughter, who wanted to make purses and skirts. We sewed a few things on it, but didn't really use it too much. When she went to college, she took it with her, but didn't use it much, so brought it back home. About 7 years ago I started quilting, and you guessed it, I was sewing on that cheap little Brother machine. It was so lightweight that it would move around on the table when my quilt tops got past lap size, just from the weight of the fabric. It sounded like I don't know what....pound, pound, pound. You could tell it was cheap, cheap, cheap. Well, after 2-1/2 years of quilting, that little machine was totally worn out. I took it to be serviced because it wouldn't feed the fabrics right. The repairman told me all the gears were worn down. Enter another Brother machine, this one cost about $200. Again, lightweight and noisy. I used it for about 2 years, then I wanted a better one, so DH bought me another Brother, again about $200, but with a bunch of decorative stitches. It works fine, but there is still the issue of dancing on the table that I don't like.

    Enter my introduction to vintage sewing machines. Wow!! My eyes were opened!! The vintage machine gurus on this board totally won me over with their descriptions of the wondrous talents of the vintage & antique machines. I found my 301a first, and I was completely enamored from the first time I used her. She was a mess and missing parts, etc. when I got her, but it was love at first sight!! Since then I have accumulated 8 more, and I love each one.

    I still occasionally use my modern Brother machine, but not nearly as much as I use my vintage girls. I have bought each of my oldest 2 grandaughters vintage machines. Whenever I don't need my machines any more, I know my youngest daughter and my oldest grandaughter will be figuring out who gets which one, as they love them too.

    I'm not done collecting yet. Just being more selective now due to space limitations, as well as Evil Eye issues from DH!! LOL

  17. #17
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    There are two trains of thought I guess about "portable" machines.
    First, the original definition of "portable" means it's not in a cabinet, but still weighs the same as a full size 57 Chevy.
    Second, the modern definition of "portable" means it's light as breeze and you can carry it around in your back pack or purse.

    Several years ago I found our Free Westinghouse machine in thrift store. The store was across the street from the muffler shop that was working on my wife's truck. I found the machine and bought it, then carried it across the street to her truck. I about had a hernia before I got that thing to the truck. But, and this is very important to me, when I use that thing it does not move. The case it's in needs a new set of rubber feets so it doesn't scrape up the table, but that's a minor thing.

    The Singer I mentioned above isn't near as light as the new plastic machines, but it's still too light to do much of anything. I tried to move it just a little bit and it about slid across the table.

    I like the old machines.

    Joe

  18. #18
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I started out life on some old HC until I got myself vaccinated... Mom quickly let me use the FW. I used a Touch 'n Sew in Home Ec and it turned me off on Singer for a VERY long time. The FW was all we had - when I got married, I bought a used FW and used it until my first born son came along. A friend loaned me an Elna. It was love and no going back at that point. I scraped and scrounged and got a used Elna. I wore it out. I still have it and it is pathetic. When I wore it out I searched for something I liked as well. I used a New Home or Good Housekeeper or something I borrowed. It was ok... Then someone gave me a low end Viking. It was ok... DD fell in love with it and took it when she moved out. sigh. I bought a used low end Viking. It was ok.... A friend wanted a machine so I sold it to her. Somewhere in there I got an assortment of industrial machines. Those are nice if you are doing production. I made tents for about 10 years or so - a machine with a walking foot is very nice. Next I bought a new low end but expensive Janome - electronic. Darn thing didn't do much for me. I about quit sewing. I picked up a Necchi or two at a garage sale some were ok some not... Then I found a Singer 401G in the garbage. It was love. That thing was trashed. But it was love. I searched around and bought a 403 in good condition. It was pure love. It's my go to machine. The Necchi was re-homed. The Janome was re-homed. A lot of water went over the dam. I had to work on that 401 a lot so I learned a thing or two. I've picked up old machines, fixed them up and sold them. Now there is internet and repair information... WOW!!! I can't seem to fix a plastic machine. The others are much easier to work on. I'm over 60 and can't really remember not sewing. Give me a good old vintage machine and I'm happy. I love to tinker with them more than anything. I am amazed at the engineering and the machine work that went into those old machines.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  19. #19
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    I can't remember my Mom ever having a Singer. From as far back as I can remember she's had the HOTHER. Perhaps before that another machine, I don't know. When I was little she sewed her finger into her work on an old black portable machine at the kitchen table. I have no idea what brand it was but it was in a case.
    After she retired the HOTHER she got a cabinet machine that I think is a Kenmore. But I'm not sure. All I know is it wasn't a Singer. That machine is languishing in a shed on my aunts property in AZ. I can't get any of my relations to assist me in retrieving it.
    When I got married my wife had a Singer 538. Still has it but it's ailing and won't work right any more.

    I don't know anyone personally who has a brand new machine. Even my aunts have quit sewing. My oldest aunt says she's got her grandmothers treadle machine, but I don't know if she uses it, or what it is.
    My step daughter has a treadle, but again I don't think she uses it.

    Somebody must have a brand new machine. Maybe they're just ashamed to admit it.

    Joe

  20. #20
    Senior Member greywuuf's Avatar
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    I was given a rather new "White" for my Daughter, its all plastic and needed a foot control. it is a box store low end one, and after the new controller I realized it had no bobbin case, and the tension was a mess. it works after a fashion, but she is getting a 1920's 128 for her next Birthday and i KNOW that one will sew .

  21. #21
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    Amen!

    You are so Right Joe~~I love to read your post, You tell it like it is. Looking forward to more to come.

  22. #22
    Senior Member MarthaT's Avatar
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    I just took my Bernina 930 in for it's annual cleaning and tune-up. The dealer there said he believes that was the best machine ever made. I love my little work horse and will do whatever I can to keep her running so I don't have to buy anything else. The dealer has learned not to even try to talk to me about the new machines he has on display. He knows the only business he gets from me is what it takes to keep that baby purring! So sad they just don't make them that way any more.
    Thimble and Thread

  23. #23
    Super Member valleyquiltermo's Avatar
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    Well Joe I have about 20 or so vintage machines and a some newer machines. I have a Gammill classic plus quilting machine and a gammill binding machine and a Bernina 180 embroidery machine. Oh and a brother from 1990.
    I love all my machines, but I love all my vintages most. They where built to last and I know I will still have them when the bernina is at the scrap yard. 3 treadles, and 10 FWs, and 3 301 A's, 2 singer 15's and a 15-91 and 2 Bernetts and a few more I'm trying to remember, LOL.
    Last edited by valleyquiltermo; 04-13-2012 at 05:50 AM.
    http://www.skillpages.com/DonnaValleyquiltermo
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    and do what you can for others.

  24. #24
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    Martha,

    My wife's Bernina 930 came to her about 12 years ago from my cousins estate. My cousin had bought it new in the late 80s I think. I do not think it was ever serviced or cleaned. I know it hadn't been from the time my wife got it until I took the plates off around the bobbin area about 3 months ago. That machine was packed with lint and thread, and yet it showed no signs of quitting. A modern Singer would have choked up and stalled long before it got as bad as the Bernina.
    I cleaned it out and oiled everything metal that moved. Now it works quiet again. My wife has discovered just how good that machine is and wants to start picking up attachments and accessories she doesn't have for it. It's worth it.

    Joe

  25. #25
    Super Member J Miller's Avatar
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    vallyquiltermo,

    I know, it's getting bad when you have to stop and remember what machines you have. I made up a page to print for a loose leaf binder so I could record all their information. My old brain just can't hold it all any more.

    Joe

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