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Thread: Thinking of a vintage machine...which one? help :)

  1. #1
    Member Mummy Quilts's Avatar
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    Question Thinking of a vintage machine...which one? help :)

    I'm a vintage newbie. I don't know much of anything about fixing up a machine, but I'm willing to learn. I'm starting to look at vintage machines (I'm in LOVE!) and I just don't know which brand/model is a good starter for someone like me...

    I want to be able to 'use' the machine - i.e. I don't want it for decorative purposes...

    I don't mind putting a bit of elbow grease into something...

    But I just don't know where to start. What's a good "beginner" vintage-enthusiast machine?

    And I just want to thank anyone who replies in advance for taking the time!! Thank you!!
    - ​Before there was Prozac, there was quilting. -


    Happily quilting on a Brother Pacesetter 3001XL & Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
    most recent acquisition: a Singer 66-16 {beautiful, but needs work!}

  2. #2
    Super Member Caroline S's Avatar
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    That is a huge question. It depends on whether you want a treadle or electric vintage sewing machine. Start visiting you local Craigslist and check out thrift stores local to you and online. For your first vintage sewing machine you will want one that is in good shape operationally and is not missing any parts. Find one that you like and ask us for advice. Good luck.
    Sweet Caroline

  3. #3
    Member Mummy Quilts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caroline S View Post
    That is a huge question. It depends on whether you want a treadle or electric vintage sewing machine. Start visiting you local Craigslist and check out thrift stores local to you and online. For your first vintage sewing machine you will want one that is in good shape operationally and is not missing any parts. Find one that you like and ask us for advice. Good luck.
    Hi Caroline!
    Sorry, I should have said that I'd want an electric machine...
    Thanks for your tips, I've been looking on CL and researching a bit online, but it's so overwhelming - I feel like I just don't know where to start, lol
    Thank you!
    - ​Before there was Prozac, there was quilting. -


    Happily quilting on a Brother Pacesetter 3001XL & Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
    most recent acquisition: a Singer 66-16 {beautiful, but needs work!}

  4. #4
    Super Member Annaquilts's Avatar
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    Feather Weight, Singer 301, 15-91, 201, Bernina 830 vintage, Singer 401, Spartan, Singer 99
    I found if it was movable or a boat anker also made a difference to me. do I only use it at home or do I like to take it along. Some of the heavier ones come in cabinets which is nice if you sew at home. It is great to fold it out of the way if you are not working on it.
    Last edited by Annaquilts; 02-14-2013 at 06:59 AM.
    Anna Quilts

  5. #5
    Junior Member makitmama's Avatar
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    do you need anything besides a straight stitch for your first machine? do you need to be able to lower the feed dogs? do you want something with widely used bobbins/needles or is brand-specific ok?
    and lastly- does your heart pound more for a black machine, or a tan machine, or a more brightly colored one?
    Cil



    I'm a Queen.... at least my pantyhose say I am!


    (proud caretaker of a magenta 221, purple 222, assorted 66's, a 301, a pink Atlas and Monarch, and Granny's 201-2.

  6. #6
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    For your first fixer upper, I'd stay clear of any Pfaffs or Berninas. Not only are they very expensive, the parts are hard to find and pricey. They're great machines, but can take a lot of work and are not for newbies. Stick to Singers and clones or badged machines for your first project.

  7. #7
    Super Member jlhmnj's Avatar
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    Any of the black Singers are good, some better than others depending on what you want to do. For a portable a Featherweight or 301 is tough to beat. Keep an eye out for cracking and crumbling wiring and missing bobbin cases especially on the FW and 301.

    Jon

  8. #8
    Super Member nygal's Avatar
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    Well maybe it will happen for you like it did for me. After seeing all the great vintage machines I began to want one too. I said a litle prayer that I'd love to come across one someday.

    Then about a month later while I was dropping off a few bags of clothes at a Goodwill Store I asked the lady working if she happened to have any vintage machines. I did not expect her response. She said "Yes, just the one over there". As she pointed over her shoulder I could see a black Singer vintage machine and I KNEW it was there just for me!!! I was thrilled. THAT was an answered prayer for sure! I bought it and a few days later it was oiled and works great!!! It's a Singer 99.
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    When it seems like the world is falling to pieces remember that the pieces are falling into place. We are nearing closer to the End Times.

  9. #9
    Member Mummy Quilts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by makitmama View Post
    do you need anything besides a straight stitch for your first machine? do you need to be able to lower the feed dogs? do you want something with widely used bobbins/needles or is brand-specific ok?
    and lastly- does your heart pound more for a black machine, or a tan machine, or a more brightly colored one?
    A straight stitch would be sufficient - I would like to be able to drop the feed dogs...

    I'd like a machine that is relatively easy to get parts and needles/bobbins, etc.

    As for color...I love the black machines, but not stuck on them. I think on that account I'll know it when I see it? (sorry to be vague!

    Quote Originally Posted by Candace View Post
    For your first fixer upper, I'd stay clear of any Pfaffs or Berninas. Not only are they very expensive, the parts are hard to find and pricey. They're great machines, but can take a lot of work and are not for newbies. Stick to Singers and clones or badged machines for your first project.
    Thank you - this is great to know, especially for a newbie I really appreciate it!
    Quote Originally Posted by jlhmnj View Post
    Any of the black Singers are good, some better than others depending on what you want to do. For a portable a Featherweight or 301 is tough to beat. Keep an eye out for cracking and crumbling wiring and missing bobbin cases especially on the FW and 301.

    Jon
    Thanks Jon - this is all great information - I've seen a lot of Featherweights - beautiful machines!
    Quote Originally Posted by nygal View Post
    Well maybe it will happen for you like it did for me. After seeing all the great vintage machines I began to want one too. I said a litle prayer that I'd love to come across one someday.

    Then about a month later while I was dropping off a few bags of clothes at a Goodwill Store I asked the lady working if she happened to have any vintage machines. I did not expect her response. She said "Yes, just the one over there". As she pointed over her shoulder I could see a black Singer vintage machine and I KNEW it was there just for me!!! I was thrilled. THAT was an answered prayer for sure! I bought it and a few days later it was oiled and works great!!! It's a Singer 99.
    Name:  DSC01805.JPG
Views: 564
Size:  877.7 KB
    This is great to know - I would have never thought to ask at a Goodwill! Thank you!
    - ​Before there was Prozac, there was quilting. -


    Happily quilting on a Brother Pacesetter 3001XL & Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist
    most recent acquisition: a Singer 66-16 {beautiful, but needs work!}

  10. #10
    Super Member Daylesewblessed's Avatar
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    I recommend the Singer 301 for a great vintage machine -- easy to use and not complicated. It is lightweight.

  11. #11
    Muv
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    I couldn't persuade you to go for a hand machine or a treadle, could I? Then you haven't got the problem of dodgy old electrics.

  12. #12
    Super Member jlm5419's Avatar
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    My first vintage machine was a 1939 Singer 201. I bought it for the cabinet, $20 at an auction. Once I figured out how to thread it correctly, I am totally in love with this machine. It's a workhorse that makes wonderfully straight stitches. Next to the 201, the Singer 15-91 and featherweight are my favorite vintage machines.
    jlm5419-an Okie back in Oklahoma!
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    Senior Member vanginney's Avatar
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    My top 3 are singer 201, 99, and featherweight. When you see it you will know its the right one for you!

  14. #14
    Senior Member csharp's Avatar
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    Okay, here's my take on the subject...learned so much from this board first of all about the Featherweights, so cute, (got one) won't be a "go to" for FMQ, too small, Loved the decals on the Singer 66 redeyes (got one) purrs and pieces beautifully, but no reverse and feed dogs don't drop, ...run across a Singer 99 and (got it) does okay and I love it but feed dogs still don't drop....lusted for a 15-91 to fill the "feed dog" item...(got one) it seems to do it ALL and does do the free motion quilting great...now if I can just get better...So I vote for the 15-91 to do it ALL. I also have a lovely Janome 6600P with all the fancy stitches, and an embroidery machine but it is the Black singers that make me smile when I walk into the sewing room. Had only the Janomes until a year ago... vintage machines IS addicting. BUT sooo much fun to use.
    with a passion for quilting and vintage machines..Singers: 99, 4 featherweights, Redeye 66, Lotus 66, Phoenix 27, 15-91, 301A
    Colleen S.

  15. #15
    Super Member deedum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by csharp View Post
    Okay, here's my take on the subject...learned so much from this board first of all about the Featherweights, so cute, (got one) won't be a "go to" for FMQ, too small, Loved the decals on the Singer 66 redeyes (got one) purrs and pieces beautifully, but no reverse and feed dogs don't drop, ...run across a Singer 99 and (got it) does okay and I love it but feed dogs still don't drop....lusted for a 15-91 to fill the "feed dog" item...(got one) it seems to do it ALL and does do the free motion quilting great...now if I can just get better...So I vote for the 15-91 to do it ALL. I also have a lovely Janome 6600P with all the fancy stitches, and an embroidery machine but it is the Black singers that make me smile when I walk into the sewing room. Had only the Janomes until a year ago... vintage machines IS addicting. BUT sooo much fun to use.
    Oh how I agree! You just can't beat a Singer 15-91 OMG! I love mine, so much so, I bought another one for a spare! I love to FM on them, and they are set up all the time to piece with. If you want one to travel with a Singer 301, lightweight. Best buy is probably the 15 though, sometimes you can find a 301 at a decent price. I would certainly do my homework, look around! I have some Janomes also, but my favorites are my old Singers! Hands down!

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    For a beginner, I'd suggest a 201 or 15-91. They are excellent sewers and there are parts available. You'll learn to rewire, oil, grease, and experience the satisfaction of fixing up a timeless machine. They are durable and timeless.

    Stay away from Bernina's, Pfaffs, Elnas, and old treadles because they are delicate, expensive to work on, and/or have some plastic gears that require major experience to replace.
    Last edited by DanofNJ; 02-14-2013 at 07:34 PM.

  17. #17
    Junior Member Jory's Avatar
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    This weekend, I'll be looking at a 1874 Sphinx treadle. . . for $85. seems too good to be true. What should I be on the lookout for?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    Jory

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    I recommend a Japanese made Kenmore ZZ, or a Singer 237. If you find a Kenmore, make sure it is a low shank middle homing machine. These use common 15 bobbins and modern feet and needles. There are an almost endless number of feet available This will serve your needs for many years. A Singer 66 or 15, or a clone will also serve you well, but only straight stitches. All of the above can often be found for $20-$50
    I would stay away from Featherweights (too expensive) and 301s (uses slant shank feet).

  19. #19
    Super Member lovelyl's Avatar
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    It seems that parts for Singer machines are easily available. For a non electric machine, I would suggest a Singer 66 or 115 treadle. Both are easy to work on and both sew great. I also have a Singer 201 hand crank that is a great machine. For electric my fav is a Singer 15-91. You can lower the feed dogs on the 15-91 and I think on the 201 also. The 66 and 115 do not lower feed dogs.
    Linda
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  20. #20
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    It depends what you want to use it for. IMHO:

    If piecing, the Singer 221 Featherweight is the most accurate, but fmq is yucky. Straight stitch (ss) only. Twelve pounds, I think. Easy to transport. Needs special bobbins, easily available, interchange with Singer 301.

    If piecing and free motion quilting and straight line quilting, the Singer 301 (ss) can't be beat, and it is simple to maintain. It is gear driven instead of belt driven, can handle heavier stuff (I wouldn't try leather), has a slant shank that lets you see better. Sixteen pounds. A keeper and my all-time favorite. I have two and use them constantly. Needs special bobbins, easily available.

    The 15-91 (ss) is also good at all these things, but heavier. I know people who have the 15-91 on a quilt frame for quilting despite its small harp. In fact, Model 15 (ss) anything, including clone, is great.

    For piecing and straight-line quilting of heavier items, the Singer 201 (ss) is great. It is a sweet machine. However, don't try it for fmq. I've known only one person who had one she could use for fmq, and if the threads get caught in the bobbin assembly, it's really tough to put it back together so it works. Ask me how I know. I have three 201s but they are seldom used. The hand crank is great for precision thread painting. I prefer the less finicky Singer 301. I find I MUST hold the thread tails each and every time on the 201. This is heavy, maybe 40 pounds. Do not use for bobbin work.

    For all around sewing, but not my favorite for piecing or fmq: the Singer 401. Wonderful for straight-line quilting. Twenty-two or more stitches, reliable, not easy for a beginner to use, sews through a lot (still not leather). Needs frequent use or gets cranky. A keeper. Singer 500 is almost the same. Probably 26 - 30 pounds.

    For piecing, some quilting: Singer 127 treadle (ss) lets you do this but not my favorite, at least not the one I have. Singer 66 handles heavier jobs (not leather) and that would be a better choice.

    For piecing: Singer 99 (ss). It's okay, not a favorite. I have one that has poor decals and use it for paper piecing and allow pins with it. It has the bentwood case.

    Necchi Super Nova is wonderful, endlessly versatile as far as stitches go, very heavy, not a beginner's machine. You can get any stitch you can think up by combining cams.

    For pure precision and enjoyment: Pfaff 130. A machine to die for. Not portable, 40+ pounds, but a great precision piecer, fmq, and straight line quilting. Do NOT use for bobbin work; ask me how I know. Handles heavy stuff easily, but wouldn't make leather a habit. Needs special bobbins.

    Elna grasshopper (ss) is decent for piecing and is one of only two machines made that has a true low gear for powering through really heavy stuff (The other is Viking 6400 series). Elna comes with its own case that turns into a table. Needs special bobbins.

    Viking 6400 series. SS and zz and has 16 more stitches on cams. Good machine. A keeper. Reliable, easy to use. True low gear. Has some unusual looking feet.

    Did I miss any you want to know about?
    Last edited by cricket_iscute; 02-15-2013 at 07:38 AM.

  21. #21
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    My favorite electrics are my featherweights or my 15-91. My favorite treadles are my 27 and my 66. They are all easy to service and very dependable. Nothing better than a good, vintage Singer!

  22. #22
    Super Member Lyncat's Avatar
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    If you just want straight stitch I love the 201.

  23. #23
    Junior Member makitmama's Avatar
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    For Jory- if you are actually going to treadle on this machine, make sure it has complete functional movement. Even if you have to tie shoelaces as a temporary belt.
    Make sure that the machine operates smoothly. For that age machine you will have a long bobbin- make sure you have a bobbin case and some extra bobbins.
    Look up the serial number on the machine- I take my ipad or iphone and do it right there.
    Cil



    I'm a Queen.... at least my pantyhose say I am!


    (proud caretaker of a magenta 221, purple 222, assorted 66's, a 301, a pink Atlas and Monarch, and Granny's 201-2.

  24. #24
    Super Member purplefiend's Avatar
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    Mummy Quilts,
    Do you do free motion quilting? A Singer 15-90 or 15-90 would be a good machine. I have one, its a great machine and its easy to find bobbins and other parts. The feed dogs drop too.
    I have a 4 treadle machines,Pfaff 60, Singers 115,201K,237 and 15-90; the last 2 had motorectomies.
    I have Singer 301s, Featherweights, all of them are great machines. Stay away from the Singers made after 1978, they're bad news.
    Sharon
    Last edited by purplefiend; 02-15-2013 at 09:17 PM.

  25. #25
    Super Member barri1's Avatar
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    I'm in love with my singer 66.. Though she doesn't have drop down feed dogs, reverse, and nor is she portable, but she hums.. She is easy to take care of, and she performs like she is at Lincoln Center. She doesn't grab my threads, doesn't skip stitches, and all she asks in return is a little oil now, and then. It also helps if she is plugged in. She gets very stubborn if she has no current going to her.
    I also have two Singer 99's.. I fell in love with my first, and was at a garage sale two weeks ago, and another came home with me.. I hope to give one away to a niece, but am waiting for one of them to mention the need.. They are different models of the 99's. One has reverse, and the other doesn't, but has a bent wood case. Both were very well taken care of.. Both were $25.. One from a thrift store, and the other from a tag sale.
    Since I do applique sometimes, I have a green Singer from the UK.. I only use her for her zig zag capabilities..

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