Vintage Sewing Machines - by Russell Moore
Machines have many bells and whistles but the most used function is the straight stitch. It's the most basic function and remains the most used. 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 nearly 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. Here they are, not necessarily in perfect chronological order:
Singer 15/91: This is another gear driven model with a 15 class bobbin case. The 15 class case goes underneath on the left. It uses the largest bobbin, 15class, like many of its contemporary counterparts. 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.
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 221: 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
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.
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.
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.
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 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 500A: This is the same machine as the 401 with some cosmetic changes. The 503 was a cam only model.
Singer 600E: 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!
Elna 62C: 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.
Bernina 730/830: 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 the best and simplest. Bernina used an oscillating hook system, similar to the 15Class Singer Hook. This hook system enable operators to better utilize free hand embroidery techniques and thus became a favorite amongst embroidery enthusiast during the late 70's and 80's.
Bernina 930: 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.
These are the best of the show. There may be others but not many were made and will be impossible to find. 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 "Vintage Sewing Machine All Star List".
Use this contact button to submit your question. I will personally supply an answer or opinion free! - Russ
USED PFAFF HOBBY 1200 @ SOLD
This machine is made for the home quilter enthusiast. This machine is like new. The customer just didn't use it. 1 year guarantee, parts and labor.
Singer 221 Featherweight @ $399
Excellent condition! One year part and labor guarantee.
Used Singer 301: $349
This Singer 301 runs as good as it looks. Little used by the original owner, this slant needle all gear driven model is cherished by vintage machine collectors and avid sewing enthusiast as well.Mint! We're looking for someone wanting to sew with it.
Used Elna 744 serger @ $450
Abandon repair being sold for salvage. New needle plate and needle bar, complete service and head cleaning. This model will do 2/3/4 thread overlock plus a 2/thread coverstitch. 1 year part and labor guarantee!
USED Bernina 910 @ - SOLD
This Bernina 910 is lightly used and sews as good now as the day it came off the assembly line. It's classic Swiss quality will endur for many years to come. This model uses the classic CB (center bobbin) hook system which produces, arguably, the best quality straight stitch ever. This hook system forms a stitch using a slower moving hook producing gentler thread handling. The hook is syncronized with the needle 1 to 1. Rotary hook machines spin the hook 2 to 1. This machine will sew with the lightest weight rayon thread or heavy duty upholstery weight nylon thread. The CB hook uses a 15class bobbin, the most common bobbin in the world. The 910 offers an excellent buttonholer and all the utility stitches needed for the experienced seamstress.
USED YAMATA PORTABLE BLIND STITCH MACHINE @ $199
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
USED HUSKYLOCK 440: $199 - SOLD!!
The 440 is a 4 thread model (similar to the three thread model pictured), a two thread safety chain stitch with a 2 thread overlock. The machine has been serviced and new knives have been installed. This is an older model and produces that vintage running quality many seamstresses look for.
New Royal Treadle: $450
A piece of American History
Built by the Illinois Sewing Machine Company
(Proceeds to go to Charity)
Elna 744 Serger
Used Machines: A good value, better than what you'll find new for the same money!
Used Brother 797 Walking foot machine @ $799
(similar to picture)
Our Brother 797 has been serviced and is guaranteed for 1 year. Our machine is equipped with a used K-leg stand, new table top, new variable speed motor, new led lamp and new thread tree. This is a good value for someone sporting an interest in heavy duty sewing projects and upholstery.