"Vintage Sewing Machine All Star List":  I have chosen these models because they are still serviceable and respected machines.  If you have a favorite, please email me and let me know what it is. I will be happy to discuss its merits and consider it for my "List". - Russell Moore
   Machines have many bells and whistles but the most used function is the straight stitch. The second most important feature is reverse.  Reverse enables you to backtack, tie off the seams so it won't unravel.  Seems pretty trite in today's world of computerized everything.  My intention is to discuss the machines that have survived and are still producing projects today.
I've been working in the sewing machine industry for 40 years and have compiled numerous experiences with most makes and models produced.  Needle standardization played a huge roll in manufacturing and distribution.  During the vintage years, the 15x1 system prevailed.  Thread and fabric handling mechanism reliability, durability and precision are the corner stones of classic machines.
SINGER 15-91
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Used Machines:  A good value, better than what you'll find new for the same money!

Singer 221
SINGER 301A @ $150
The 301a is the first slant needle Singer and considered by oficionados to be the best as well.  It's unique all gear driven drive trane is engineered with quality workmanship, characteristic of the fifties.  The worm gear drive motor produces superior RPM and power.  This compact precision machine will sew even the toughest projects, from leather to chiffon.  It's a "straight stitch only" model and cherished for its stitch quality by quilting enthusiast.  The unique slant needle design produces a clear eye shot to the needle piercing point illuminated by a 15 watt standard sewing light bulb with a magnifier lens.  This is the kind of machine that was built for generations to appreciate and use. This one has its original carrying case too!   The bobbin case is the same as used in the Singer 221 featherweight.but the hook itself is slightly different and the hook parts are not interchangeable.
Used Portable Coverstitch Yamata GK257/357 2-Needle machine @ $99
This coverstitch machine looks like an early model babylock serger with no cutter.  These machines use two-three needles to produce parallel rows of top stitching with a lower looper that creates the cover hem.  These machines are unique as portables and generally are pricy commercial machines.  Janome has newly designed portable home sewing models selling for $399.  The Yamata is a cheap startup for the customer experimenting with cover hems.  These Yamata models use a unique needle system.  Make sure you stock up when you buy one.  (We have a 90 day exchange privilege for those wanting to step up to a new Janome model.)
Used Yamata Coverstitch

Bernina 930:  NOT FOR SALE
This was Bernina's first machine using forward and reverse motion feed to produce stitch variety and seam flexibility.  This machine came with a brilliant basting stitch.   This was a good overall machine with good staying power.  A seamstress could be happy sewing with any 900 series Bernina.  This model was considered the "best of breed" amonst many sewing machine officionados.
Bernina 830:  NOT FOR SALE
Swiss precision strikes again during the same period as the Elna 62C. The 730 and 830 are both great machines but the buttonholer on the 830 was much simpler to operate. Bernina 830 uses a CB hook system, similar to common oscillating hook systems. This hook system handles difficult threads, commonly used for free motion embroidery, making this brand a popular choice amongst embroidery enthusiast during the late 70's and 80's. Bernina introduced the electronic foot control in the 830E.  
Swiss precision, and a prime reason for Singer's eroding market share is the early and mid seventies. The 62C has a smooth operating rotary hook with a unique cam operated thread escapement mechanism that allowed the thread to travel around the bobbin case without a "pinch". The "elnagraph" enabled the machine to produce stitches using forward and reverse feed motion with it's left to right needle placement. The Elna SU boasted "upgradable" because it used interchangeable cams. Other manufacturers tried frantically to produce this "stretch stitch" pattern but were late to the party with sub quality products. This precision machine has exceptional fabric handling characteristics and could sew the toughest material, like belt leather, effortlessly.
Singer 600E:  NOT FOR SALE
The first self winding bobbin, the first "Touch n' Sew".  This was the last of all metal gears.  What a great running machine with a wonderful sales feature!

Singer 500A:  The machine pictured at the left is a mint example of an end of an era. The machine is very similar to the 401A, above.

Singer 401A:  
This is an early automatic with many built in stitches, interchangeable cams, slant needle, full rotary hook with a front drop-in bobbin. The 403 was the last of the straight stitch models.
Singer 301:  
A precision all gear driven with a the new slant needle construction. This machine really brought it all together. These came in 3 different color combinations, black, tan, and two tone, all equally excellent.
Singer 301:  
A precision all gear driven with a the new slant needle construction. This machine really brought it all together. These came in 3 different color combinations, black, tan, and two tone, all equally excellent.
Singer 206:  
Singer's first zig zag using a Pfaff patent, I believe Your can see some similarities.  The 206 machine came in black, the 306 and 319w were beige and 2-tone green respectively.  It uses a special needle system, making it less preferred as it's hard to come by.  The 319W came along in two tone green using the same needle system.  These were belt driven but had sturdy construction.  If it hadn't been for the 206 needle, this machine may have been cherished as the Pfaff 130.  I'm including it primarily for historical significance, as Singer dominated the US market until the mid 70's.
Pfaff 130:  
The 130 was Pfaff's first flirtation with the US market, again an early zig zag after WWII.  These machines are prized by merchant marine's as they're a zig zag portable and can be used effectively to mend sails.
Necchi BU:  
The first zig zag.  Necchi was an Italian brand and imported the first Zig Zag machines sold in the US after World War II.  Singer was late to the party with it's 206 zig zag.
Singer 221 NOT FOR SALE
The featherweight has a huge "fan base". It's cute design and it's enormous production makes it the most celebrated machine of all time.  Quilters love them because they're lightweight and have a beautiful straight stitch.  It's the Model "A" of the sewing industry.  CURRENTLY ONE FOR SALE @ $399
Singer 201
Straight stitch with reverse.  Side top drop-in bobbin, 66 class, all metal full rotary hook and direct gear drive motor.  This machine is smooth and precise.  Oil in the motor has spoiled many of these old machines.  It's older sister, the Model 101 had no reverse, but had the same sweet engineering, maybe even smoother.  
The 101 is very rare.  I have sewn on only one and unfortunately it had a bad motor.  Let me know if you find one!
Singer 15/91:  This is another gear driven model with a 15 class bobbin case.  The 15 class case loads underneath on the left.  It uses the largest bobbin, 15 class, like many of its contemporaries. This is an oscillating hook system and doesn't enjoy the smooth characteristic of the 201 but it is extremely reliable and has celebrated straight stitch quality. 15/91's are plentiful and valued for their sewing performance.
Best used for:  Pants, skirts, dresses and drapery
  • True skip stitch function with chain-off finger* (*required for drapery sheers and other light work)
  • Allows the machine to skip every other stitch which reduces puckering on light-weight fabrics.
  • Simple to use - easy to operate
  • Adjustable stitch penetration. Modify the depth of the needle penetration; allows you to hem a wide variety of fabric types
  • Knee activated frame drop for easy insertion and removal of the fabric.
  • Adjustable thread tension
  • 1 - year warranty
Singer straight stitch w/ electric motor in a treadle cabinet. This machine can be use with or without electricity. Newer treadle stand with newer Singer electric machine that can be used with the treadle or motor.
WAS $99.95 - NOW ONLY $50
White Rotary straight stitch w/ cabinet @ $49.00
Priced to sell. It still works great and needs an operator that can appreciate sewing seams. Another post WWII product.
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