What should I look for?

Old 09-21-2016, 03:39 AM
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Default What should I look for?

Hey all, I am an art quilter and do a lot of quilts using decorative stitches, in addition to Fmq. I have a 1955 FW that I love and a larger straight stitch only machine (pq1500s) for quilting. I also have a vintage basic machine (VX560) with some utility stitches and a satin stitch that I sometimes use. However, my machine with the most decorative stitches ( the PC420PRW) has been used hard and is starting indicate it may be time for a replacement. I am thinking of replacing it with a vintage machine that uses cams for decorative stitching. I tend to sew through multiple layers of materials and have been known to use unusual materials (think very thin metal and quilt sandwiches stuffed with uneven layers of scrap fabrics). So I am looking for a machine that can handle thick quilt sandwiches, and uneven layering, but that also has readily available cams with good variety of decorative and utility stitches. I should say that I'm also pretty comfortable using a variety of machines and doing basic trouble shooting.

I'm wondering if folks could suggest machines meeting my needs that I should be on the lookout for?
Are any of the following potential matches for my needs?

Kenmores in the 158 series ( not sure I've got the numbers right-- working from memory on what I've seen avaiable)

Singers in 300 or 400 ( again, I may not have the numbers right) series or "rocketeers" that take cams

are there others that I should think about?

Rob
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Old 09-21-2016, 06:33 AM
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Since you have a lot of Brothers it might be good to try something else? A Singer 401 is very solid and capable and it does have a lot of stitch patterns. It has all metal gears, everything I look for in a vintage machine. Models in the 400, 500 and to a lesser degree 600 numbers can be all metal. Models 319 and 320 take a slighly different needle system and doesn't come in as many sizes and types (rounded, stretch, various leather tips) as regular domestic, but are definitely well built machines. There was a two tone green 320 here a few weeks ago, the price was right and I regret I wasn't quicker ;- )

It depends on what type of cam patterns you think of, I guess the newer Brother PC420PRW has a few stretch stitches, and stitch patters with back step (movment of needle and feed dogs are independet). Most of the older zigzaggers which takes cams don't have this back step feature, the exception, as far as I know, is Elna Supermatic (1952) and a few German machines intruduced in the late 50s. (I think Gritzner, Adler, Ideal, maybe Phoenix might have had a few models with the more advanced cam mechanism). Again I think Japanese made machines caught on to this in the 60s, and you will find models of Brother or Janome origin with stretchy stitches and equivalent utility and decorative stitches. This feature gets more common in all brands by the 70s, but still; Bernina didn't have it until the 80s. (Bernina never had individual cams, but built in cam stack)

The cam type which does these stitches have two layers, they are called doble cams, flexistitch, magic, some machine have a built in cam stack with these features. Many Singer Touch & Sew models (690 and various 700 numbers) from the 70s have them.

This is the reason I fixed up an old Elna Supermatic, I ended up with a late 50s two tone beige-tan model. I can easily recommend you getting one it should turn up near you. There is one thing you need to know about this model; it likely needs to have the rubber pulley behind the hand wheel replaced, at least sanded down (which is a minor thing) and maybe treated with the type of reson cube they use for violin bows (gives old rubber back it's grip). I was lucky to get an aluminium pulley fitted with rubber O-rings, easy for later maintanance. The other issue, it's not all metal, there are a few plastic gears; if you don't mind DIY there are help and tutorials on how to replace them.

I have recently discovered a few older German models from the 50s to early 60s; often under names like Adler, Phoenix, Ideal, and more common Pfaff. Not all of them are all metal, some are, there's option for cams, and best of all they run very nicely. I lean towards flat bed models in a cabinet, but freearms have their advatages and have all the same features.

I have notice a few very nice Kenmores, the later ones are Japanese made. Does anyone know which year they were bought up? Either can be good.

Berninas are nice too, from 500, 600, 700 and 800 series. The flat bed models are as far as I now all metal except for the gear turning the cam stack. The flat beds are more heavily built, the parts under the base at least, the upper part is usually identical. The freearm models are more light weight to accomodate the narrow free arm build. They are still solid and capable machines. There are two types bobbins for the flat beds; rotary hook, industrial bobbin and case (they run faster), some have the same bobbin case and CB hook as the freearm models. A 730 freearm is one of my favorites.

My approach is to take a chance on what turns up on the moment, and not track down a particular model. I do that too if I have my mind set on something very particular, but I keep my mind open and look at each machine individually. Some machines like the Phoenix turned out as a very nice surprise. I don't pay too much for any machine at the moment, I have two nicely running machines and I know they often need a bit of work and money to get them up and running again. The older they are the likely it is they need rewiring; not impossible but it takes time.

Last edited by Mickey2; 09-21-2016 at 06:40 AM.
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Old 09-21-2016, 06:59 AM
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Thanks Mickey2,
I'm wondering how difficult it is to find cams for machines that are built to use them, but are sold without them---I see a lot of Singers and Kenmores that are capable of using cams but are being sold without, and also without presser feet--and wasn't sure how hard cams and feet are to come by for these machines.

I've seen some Elna Supermatics around and also some Adlers, but didn't know enough about them to take a chance. Do you have a feeling for how easy/difficult it might be to find cams for them if I find a machine without the cams?

I'm not wedded to any specific decorative stitches, just looking for a variety of densities-- some more light and lacy feeling and some heavier-- I like to be able to use a variety on my quilts. Since I also do a lot of FMQ on my quilts to enhance texture and to add design motifs, I don't really need the pictographic decorative stitches that some of the more modern machines use.

Are there any models you would stay away from due to difficulty in finding parts, cams, feet etc?

Rob
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Old 09-21-2016, 07:36 AM
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Singers, Kenmores and Elna cams are available, it's mostly a question of price, identifying correct type and you can order almost any from the web within a few minutes. I think feet are available for all models, it's mostly about identifying shank type.

Take a look at the top of Bernina 730 Record, that's the built in patterns, but no options for separate cams. My 730 has very even, nice, satin stitches. I like these machines. Extra feet are easy to find, can cost a bit, but a couple of presser feet is not going to breake you.

I think all of the vintage two layer cams only work with a fixed stitch width and length, the single layer cams can be adjusted any way you like (both types used on the same machine). If the overlock type sitch doesn't matter much I guess a Singer 319 or a 401 is very nice for quilting. If you ever should come across one in a table or c'abinet, they make the flat beds superb for larger pieces of fabric. There's c'abinets where freearms are partly lifted down to make it like a flat bed too. My Phoenix came with 4 cams, I have not seen any for it yet and I have search a bit the last few weeks. Nothing is impossible but it will take time if any additional will turn; if you happen to see an Adler, Phoenix or Ideal make sure cams are with the machine, feet are easy. Gritzners can take a type of Kenmore cam, there was recent thread on this, there is a series of closely related models, and they seem to share the same cams, and sold under various names.

Last edited by Mickey2; 09-21-2016 at 07:43 AM.
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Old 09-21-2016, 12:38 PM
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A lot depends on what style of decorative stitches you're looking for. Most older cam machines only have the ability to make decorative stitches that are just satin stitch variations, no forward/backward movement stitches(stretch stitch capability). Japanese machines had this ability long before Singers. My Brother Pacesetters(1956&57) have many built in stitches that Singer machines didn't have even with cams until the late 1960s. Also be aware that there are a lot of Japanese machines of this era that are left needle machines, that is, straight stitch is done with the needle in left position, not center position. Many, many machines have the ability to sew what you are wanting to do, I imagine you'll get more replies from people telling you what their favorite machine is. my favorites are Brother machines from the 1950s and 60s.

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Old 09-21-2016, 01:06 PM
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I'm with Cari, I love my Brother made machines from the 50s and 60s... hard to beat. The Maruzen made Kenmores (the 158. series) are also wonderful, all metal or mostly metal machines with a huge variety of cams. Love my Necchi Supernova (but limited cam options but still many choices of stitch patterns), Husqvarna Viking 6000 series (36 stitch patterns available) and love my Elna Supermatic (100 or so cams available but not the most heavy duty of machines since it is friction driven).
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Old 09-21-2016, 02:35 PM
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There can be many different cams for each brand of machine. Most do not interchange between models. I think Singer has 4. (I have three Singer types.) I've seen photos of 8 different Kenmore cams. Some are easy to find, some are not. I don't know about the other brands, but don't assume that just because it's a "X" brand cam, it will fit your machine. I almost bought a Necchi at a garage sale that took cams. It would probably take forever to find those cams.

It's much easier to get one with the cams already there. There is a White (Gritzner made) on Craigslist in my home town with all the cams, accessories and manual (+nice cabinet) for $100.00. Look for one like that. That fairly well assures it's not too far from it's original owner (at least in my mind).

http://dallas.craigslist.org/dal/hsh/5743498526.html

bkay

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Old 09-22-2016, 03:38 AM
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My Singer 328 took the flat, black cams. My Singer 503 (Rocketeer) takes the black, "top hat" cams. These cams seem to be the easiest to locate, especially on eBay. The 503 won't, however, use the white "top hat" cams. I believe those are for the 600-700 series, might be mistaken on that.
i love my 503 - the stitches are beautiful! I haven't tried sewing multiple layers on it, but it seems powerful enough to do it. Good luck in your search!
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Old 09-22-2016, 03:38 PM
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The Singer 700s will take black or white top hats. No one wants a 700 machine, though, unless it's free. I don't know about the 600s, (the local OSMG said to get only the 600 or 603 - he said they are great machines) as the only one I've messed with (646) has no cams. The black top hat are easy to find (I have plenty of white ones, so never looked for them). The flat black ones are available but are usually sold on ebay as single cams for about $4.00. I lucked out on shopgoodwill and found a group of accessories and got about 30 flat cams, a couple of buttonholers, a monogrammer and a bunch of plastic 66 bobbins for about $30.00. (I really wanted those cams for my 328).

I've kind of been watching for those Gritzner cams, as I have two of those Kenmores and one of the Whites that are project machines. I'm not sure I would recognize them if I saw them, though. I've been sorely tempted to buy that $100.00 White on CL here. It's 100 miles round trip and I'm not too gung ho on that. It looks like a really nice machine and it's supposed to work. He says he has all the original accessories and manual. There's not much demand for "not-singer" vintage machines here, so it's been available for a while.
bkay

Last edited by bkay; 09-22-2016 at 03:52 PM.
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Old 09-22-2016, 08:22 PM
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This is the sewing machine I own....and I love it. Viking model 6440:
https://www.google.com/search?q=viki...mZzil4HOauM%3A
Mine has 8 cams, and LOTS of different stitches on each. I combine them sometimes to come up with even more. It is a workhorse, I can clean/oil it myself, and I found a walking foot for it too, so I quilt with it a lot. I see them for sale on CL and eBay sometimes.
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