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New sewing machine v. old - advice!

(26 Posts)
espa Tue 03-Nov-15 11:22:56

I'm wanting to do a little bit of crafty work involving sewing and have acquired my mum's old sewing machine from the early 70s (Singer). It hasn't been used in years so definitely needs a service, but the price for a service here is not much less than buying a (basic) new one. I have next to no sewing skills, so wondered whether I might actually be better off buying a new one given I'm unlikely to be doing anything overly fancy or complicated. Anyone have any advice?

fortifiedwithtea Tue 03-Nov-15 11:50:08

A few things you need to weigh up. If the Singer was made in Scotland and I believe in the early 70s they still were, you're Mum's is a quality machine. But what does it do? If it can do zig-zag and sew backwards I would get it serviced, even if it can't do a buttonhole, that's ok whilst you are learning.

But if you are investing in a new machine. don't go too cheap, the motors won't have enough power beyond sewing a couple of layers of poly/cotton.

If you can go to spending £150 you will get something really nice but still basic. Have a look at this website

HTH smile

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 03-Nov-15 11:57:35

I think I would rather use a good quality Singer than a very basic new one, but zigzag is useful, so for me it would depend on that.

lavendersun Tue 03-Nov-15 11:58:49

You can easily do a basic service yourself OP. Do you know the model number, do a search for the manual online (many are available for free).

Might take you an hour or so to clean (brush out lint/dust mainly) and oil it yourself. Then you will be able to test it to if it needs anything else.

Look at this webpage for ideas of models or just do a search for Singers from the 70s or something like that.

Helen has lots of spares and is a lovely lady who will give you good advice if you phone her if you get stuck with anything.

I prefer old machines, have a Pfaff 30 from the 50s, a Singer 99 from 1931 and even my new machine is a Bernina mechanical where the design is based on the old style machines.

I don't use fancy stitches, just want a machine that copes with whatever I throw at it and stitches precisely.

Of course you might like the idea of a new one grin, horses for courses and all that.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 03-Nov-15 12:00:40

That's true, Lavendersun. I was despairing because I couldn't find anyone to fix my machine but then I discovered a Youtube video telling me how to do it, it was idiotproof and just took a few minutes!

lavendersun Tue 03-Nov-15 12:04:35

Oh yes TheCountess, youtube!! Has mainly passed me by to be honest (youtube that is), must be my age or something but I prefer a pdf to work through smile.

espa Tue 03-Nov-15 13:46:47

Thanks for comments so far! I think it was made in Scotland, from what my mum has said so far about "new machines made in China!" - they lived not far from the Singer factory at the time she'd have got it.

I've got the model number (and the machine, too) and I did look it up and saw there was a manual. According to this page it has zigzag. I like how it says the model is in a "trendy beige". grin

So do you think it's worth just me trying to have a look at it in the first instance rather than servicing?

LeaLeander Tue 03-Nov-15 13:55:11

Yes, try it yourself first. It's not difficult.

Older machines are far superior to the plastic ones of today. I just snapped up a 1967 model at an estate sale for pennies on the dollar and its basic but so sturdy and well-designed. Have fun with yours!

PeterParkerSays Tue 03-Nov-15 13:58:59

The old metal cased sewing machines are better than the newer plastic ones because they are sturdier. I bought a 2nd hand 1970s machine in preference to a new machine because I know it will be more robust.

lavendersun Tue 03-Nov-15 13:59:05

Look at this !!! Tune up indeed grin.

A few vintage fans on here then. I wonder how old we are (the vintage fans that is) - own up, own up - nearly 50 here!!

fortifiedwithtea Tue 03-Nov-15 18:37:39

lavedersun I'm nearly 50 too smile
When I was a little girl of 9 I asked for a sewing machine for my 10th Birthday. My DM was confused because I already had a toy one. But I wanted a real one I told her. Convinced it would be a 5 minute wonder she sent my DF off to the Singer shop. Get ready to swoon grin he came home with a 1955 201K hand crank. I loved it and learnt so much on that machine.

For my 16th birthday I got a Novum 5000 (made by New Home). Loads of fancy stitches and 4 stage buttonhole and was forever jamming.

My Singer came to the rescue to finish my bridesmaids dresses when the blasted Novum broke down. Got it serviced and eventually sold it on.

Next came the Brother Star 3, now 18 years old and sill going strong.

Now the sad bit, I gave my lovely Singer away sad sad The church was collecting hand tools for people in Africa and as it was hand crank I thought it should be used to help someone out of poverty rather than sit in the bottom of my wardrobe, I hadn't used it for years. I wish I knew for certain it is working somewhere. I was very sentimental about it, perhaps shouldn't have let it go sad

Later this week I'm collecting my Christmas present - Juki HZL G210 . Do I need it? Possibly not. Do I want it, yes grin I do a lot of sewing. Will I sell my Brother Star 3, never!

espa Keep your Mum's machine, its a good one grin It may need a new motor belt, they stretch with wear but they are easy to buy and replace. Just read up the manual to see what size you'll need. Although I would expect a sewing machine engineer to do that if you have it serviced.

daisychicken Tue 03-Nov-15 19:01:37

I have 2 vintage machines, an Elna TX and a much older Featherweight which can only do straight stitch. I use the Elna all the time and when I get a sewing room (hopefully not too long) I'll have the Featherweight set up to use. Both were inheritances and much loved. I also have a more modern (approx 10years old) Bernina. I'd love to have a hand cranked Singer as that's what I learned to sew on (it was given to a appeal for people in Africa as Mum had a newer machine which has since gone kaput) but currently don't have the space. I'm 41 btw!

I agree about trying to tune the older machine, they are much better than the cheaper modern machines around.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 03-Nov-15 19:39:06

I have a Juki but also my grandma's 1940 handcranked Singer, which I broke as a teenager (pulled it off the table and the handle snapped off - they're not easy to break) but mended with the help of the Internet. My mother still uses her grandmother's 1880 Jones shock
I am sure the Singer you gave away will be getting used and cared for. I can't see something as useful as that being wasted.

lavendersun Tue 03-Nov-15 19:41:30

Lovely stories, my 99k was given to me as a child, now my 9 year old uses it smile. Unlike you lovely people I have not been generous enough to part with it.

I can't believe you got a 201k fortified, I only got a 99k!!!!

Now for my confession, deep breath ...... I am going to buy a treadle this week, although I am giving an old Toyota I use for repairing my horse rugs away (I don't count that one for some reason, it lives in a barn outside shock). Thought I could install it in my summerhouse which is lined and insulated.

Forgot to mention my mother's old Bernina I have tucked away, I have never used it as she gave it to me about 18 months ago after I bought mine (plus a million feet). I should use it really from time to time but think I will give that to DD when she wants to move beyond the 99K.

She has used my 1008 before - she goes so fast, even with instruction and a finger guard foot it is terrifying.

fortifiedwithtea Tue 03-Nov-15 20:18:33

lavendersun I know, wasn't I lucky DF paid £22 for it in 1976. I didn't know how special my machine was until recently when I joined the sewing forum. Not feeling at all warm fuzzy and self-righteous, gutted more like. I have 2 daughter's and the youngest would like to have a play on a machine.

Never mind its done now. The new Juki has a speed control. Maybe if I slow it right down I can trust DD2 on it. But I get to play with it a lot first grin

JoffreyBaratheon Thu 05-Nov-15 10:22:30

I think most vintage machines are far better to sew on than new ones. Ones with lots of fancy stitches and cams, etc can't do a true straight stitch, or rather, because they're jack of all trades the are master of none.

My 'newest' machine is from around 1970 - a Brother. It has a zig-zag and I have never explored what any of the attachments and feet can do. Because I just want to sew and maybe go backwards to secure a seam.

I just spent last weekend fettling up a Singer 28K my husband found under a table at work. It has the nicest stitch I've yet seen. It dates to 1893.

My oldest machine is an 1885 Singer 12K. I have a treadle Singer 66K from 1910 and a hand crank from a similar date. And a hand-crank Pfaff from about 1902.

But my all time favourite machine and one I sew everything on - clothes, curtains and currently, a patchwork thing - is a 1956 Singer 221K 'Featherweight' which is the love of my life. It came to me fully serviced and re-wired.

Very little to go wrong on them. A contemporary machine - whether under £100 from a supermarket over over £1000 for some electronic, computerised wonder-machine... is badly built and will have a built in obsolescence. Older machines are simpler, and were engineered in Scotland so well that I can pick up and clean a 122 year old machine and have it working like the day it was made, in a couple of hours.

If you explore online you'll see there are whole blogs and sites devoted to vintage machines and they are becoming increasingly sought after.

Can you tell I like vintage machines? Clean it, oil it, change the needle and chances are you're good to go (unless you feel the electrics need checking). When today's machines are 100 years old, they will already have been 80 years plus in the landfill.

JoffreyBaratheon Thu 05-Nov-15 10:31:21

Here's my 1970 machine with a 1910 Jones in the background (I fettled up three vintage machines over the summer - gave 2 Jones to my sons and a Singer 28K to one of their friends who is doing a degree in Fashion).

And here is my baby, the 1956 Featherweight. They're miniature machines so very cute!

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Thu 05-Nov-15 10:55:42

Lovely smile

The old machines are so beautifully engineered. Can you think of any other type of machine where ones made over 100 years ago still work perfectly? I know of outboard motors from before the war that still run well, and steam engines, but as far as I can think of, sewing machines are the only thing where large numbers of them are still part of our lives.

I love the family history in them, as well, and the connections with my foremothers. It is quite wonderful to think that 5 or 6 generations of women in my family have sewn on the Jones. We're not a rich family so we don't have any other family heirlooms, or even photos, that go back that far.

JoffreyBaratheon Thu 05-Nov-15 11:52:49

Countess, the Jones' are the prettiest of all, I think. I've given my two Joneses to my sons both of whom are actually interested in sewing, so think they will get used. But I got both quite easily, at car boots - think I paid £11 for one - your's will be much more valuable, being older - these were both from around 1910. And I will defo get another one when I see one with good decals. Sadly, the one I paid only £11 for, was sold to me by a middle aged man who said it had been his grandma's - what a shame for it to go to a stranger, and not stay in the family somehow, for the sake of £11 and a bit of space in the attic! People don't value them though.

Am about to fix up my husband's great grandma's Singer 66K - I had to get an old one at a car boot, for the parts as his needs some major work doing and it's easier just to replace the entire parts. He didn't tell me so I thought it was in the attic but turns out he'd stored it in a shed for over 15 years so the whole thing was seized up. Can't believe our stupidity made that happen.

I have a 66K treadle as well which I restored from being seized.

The hand crank 66K and the little Pfaff handcrank were my husband's great grandmas' (two different grannies - not one granny with two machines!) so they are the only ones we have which have any family history. The 1885 Singer 12K I bought in the summer had an early owner's name written in ink on the wooden box and I used Ancestry to trace the owner. It was a rare surname, luckily, with only one family in England. I bought the machine on eBay and it came from somewhere down South, I forget where but miles away. (I'm near York). And I actually found the most likely owner was a lady... from York! So it was nice to restore that machine and have a bit of its history.

I have read online of people finding machines with original receipts etc so they could trace who once owned them.

lavendersun Thu 05-Nov-15 14:18:33

They are very pretty - I bought an absolutely pristine 201 hand crank today grin. Of course I didn't need it and it wasn't even what I had planned to buy. But it was such a lovely example I couldn't not buy it.

I had to go to a meeting earlier and I was early. I went into a little vintage type shop to kill time beforehand and they had a fairly decent 66K treadle in an oak cabinet for £55 - so cheap isn't it.

Anyway, plan here is to turn this hand crank into a treadle at some point - it seems easier to buy a pristine table without a machine and a pristine machine without a table rather than a smashing example of them together.

I am not sure how many machines are 'acceptable' here but I think I am pushing the limit!

Katymac Thu 05-Nov-15 14:28:13

I have a Singer in a lovely wooden case - I understood the model was a 'Jubilee' but I can't find any pictures of it

It's run by my knee rather than a foot pedal which is much easier on my joints wink

I have a box of attachments but I don't know what they all do

JoffreyBaratheon Thu 05-Nov-15 14:46:15

lavender I'm not sure I dare count mine... I did get rid of three this summer, though!

201s are said to be really good, aren't they? I've never tried one. My treadle 66K came from an 'antique' shop many years ago, and had the original manual and all the attachments in a drawer (the 7 drawer model). It had very good condition Lotus decals. I didn't realise at the time I bought it that it was actually a very good one - in good nick and also one of the earliest kind with the foot clamp at the back. I think it's 1909 or 1910.

Katymac what date is the Jubilee? Is it this one, or is there a later Singer called a Jubilee? I ask cos I thought the knee operated ones were a 20thC thing but not sure at all..

Katymac Thu 05-Nov-15 14:55:15

The tale was that it was new just pre-war & that the motor was retro fitted onto it - but I don't think it can be; the number is EC665119

It looks nothing like that one

Katymac Thu 05-Nov-15 14:55:59

pre-second world war not first - sorry

I think the family history has been confused

JoffreyBaratheon Thu 05-Nov-15 15:12:54

Yes, I have no experience of the knee thing but thinking about it some more, that would only be electrical machines, right? According to the number, that's a 201K one of a batch of 30,000 from March 1940. (ISMACS site)

Interesting stuff about the 201 here:

Apparently it was the latest model in 1940, and came with electrics or could be retro-fitted. It may have been one of the last batches made for a while, if it is March 1940 as according to that site, by July 1940 the Singer factory was making munitions!

Not sure if the motors have a separate serial # on them or not. If they do, you could find out whether the motor is later than the machine. People were retro-fitting motors on even older machines than that, well into the 1950s/60s...

Many seem to think it's the best model Singer ever made!

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